Yukon hospital faces staff, bed shortage

Caregivers seeing more COVID patients; vaccine arrives Dec. 12

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There has been an influx of coronavirus cases causing a lack of bed space at Integris Canadian Valley Hospital, 1201 Health Center Parkway. (Photo provided)

By Conrad Dudderar

Senior Staff Writer

Staffing at Yukon’s hospital has been extremely challenging as caregivers work extra shifts to care for a growing number of patients hospitalized due to COVID-19.

A COVID-19 vaccine will arrive soon, and INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital employees will be among the first to receive doses.

Integris Canadian Valley Hospital President Teresa Gray

ICVH has had 16 COVID-related deaths, hospital CEO Teresa Gray reported at the Dec. 2nd Yukon COVID-19 Task Force meeting.

Eleven hospital staff members were out after testing positive for the virus, with eight more pending test results. Oklahoma is facing a nursing shortage statewide.

Gray also reported on Dec. 2 that ICVH had 24 positive COVID cases with four patients waiting in the emergency room because there are no beds available.

No intensive care unit beds are available, and Gray said ICVH must transfer patients to other facilities – as far as Grove and neighboring states.

The Yukon hospital chief referred to “predictive modeling” that projects COVID hospitalizations tripling over the next four to six weeks.

“If you don’t believe COVID is real, call Teresa,” Mayor Shelli Selby said. “It is very real at INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital.”

INTEGRIS Health will be a “hub” site for storage of the vaccine and could be a vaccination site if needed. System-wide, INTEGRIS had 270 positive COVID patients with 110 caregivers out due to the virus.

Meanwhile, lack of staff also has reached a critical stage at Yukon’s Spanish Cove Retirement Village.

Spanish Cove CEO Don Blose

“They are wearing out,” Spanish Cove CEO Don Blose told the COVID Task Force.

Seven Spanish Cove staff members and six residents had tested positive, Blose reported.

Spanish Cove performs more than 300 COVID tests each week.

All residents were on a “10-day pause” after Thanksgiving, with no classes or events at Spanish Cove. Most residents stayed in place over the holidays.

Spanish Cove’s Health Care Center residents and employees will be offered the new vaccine during the first round.

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VACCINE COMING, MASK MANDATE?

Canadian County has the lowest COVID-19 fatality rate but the highest percentage of positive tests.

There were 565 active cases in Yukon, according to state health department data.

Maggie Jackson, community liaison at the Canadian County Health Department, told task force members the vaccine will be coming Dec. 12 and INTEGRIS Canadian Valley Hospital employees will be part of the first phase.

This vaccine must be stored at below 70 degrees; later vaccines are not supposed to have this restriction, according to Jackson.

Reports indicate 30-40% of health care workers are willing to take the vaccine. Health officials expect more to be receptive after the first round shows few side effects.

In closing, Jackson told the task force that people are contagious 48 hours before they ever start to show symptoms.

Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby

As local and state health officials implore people to wear face coverings in public and practice social distancing, Mayor Selby cited the pushback in Yukon to a “mask mandate.”

“We have to slow the infection rate,” she said.

With “no way” to enforce a mandate, Selby called on task force members to further educate people and ask private business owners to require mask wearing in their businesses.

“Encourage everyone you know to please wear a mask for just a few weeks to give our health care system a break,” the mayor said.

Also noteworthy from the Dec. 2nd Yukon COVID-19 Task Force meeting:

  • Assistant City Manager Tammy Kretchmar reported 20 City of Yukon employees were out last week after either being exposed or testing positive for COVID.
  • Yukon Chamber of Commerce CEO Pam Shelton reported some local businesses are not rejoining the chamber citing COVID and the economic downtown. The chamber has canceled all community coffees and luncheons.