Hospital to further reduce services, mass vaccination efforts resume as pandemic drags on

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

As Mercy Hospital Ardmore continues to struggle with an influx of patients, the county health department is resuming vaccine events with a drive-thru event on Thursday. First, second and third doses of vaccines will be administered by public health workers this week while the local hospital will begin canceling elective inpatient surgeries.  

Mercy Hospital Ardmore President Daryle Voss said the number of COVID-19 patients receiving care at the hospital has dropped slightly in recent days but patient capacity continues to be stretched thin. The number of COVID-19 patients fell from a recent high of 39 last week to 32 on Tuesday. 

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Mercy Hospital Ardmore on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Hospital president Daryle Voss said Tuesday that the hospital has been running at capacity for several weeks, leading to long wait times and a crowded emergency room. Efforts to handle this recent summer surge of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are similar to efforts taken late last year.

But with so many patients receiving inpatient care for COVID-19 along with other illnesses and injuries, newly admitted patients must wait in the emergency room which leads to other delays in care. 

“We started the morning holding 6 patients in the ER waiting for beds to become available from the daily discharges,” Voss said in a Tuesday afternoon email. 

Voss said the hospital has been running at capacity for several weeks which has led to long wait times and a crowded emergency room. The hospital has already stopped admissions for senior behavioral health and has put a cap on the number of inpatient rehabilitation patients. 

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Those efforts are similar to actions taken by the hospital in November 2020 as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations neared levels currently being recorded. Voss said those efforts have not been enough and that more services will be impacted beginning this week. 

“We had to go a step further this week by canceling all of our inpatient elective surgeries so that we could have a better chance of having hospital beds to those presenting in the ER,” said Voss. 

As local health care reaches a breaking point for the second time during the pandemic, public health workers will resume mass vaccination efforts. The Carter County Health Department on Thursday will host a drive-thru vaccination event and offer Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. 

The event at the Oklahoma National Guard Readiness Center will be the first event held by the county health department since April 22, according to a health department spokesperson. Minors as young as 12 can receive the Pfizer vaccine with consent from a parent or guardian, and immunocompromised people can receive their recommended third dose of Pfizer or Moderna. 

Appointments can be scheduled online at vaccinate.ok.gov or by calling the 2-1-1 hotline. Participants will stay in their vehicle when they receive their vaccine and park for a brief observation period. The event will be at 3245 Prairie Valley Rd., across from the Best Buy warehouse, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. 

Drive-in participants without an appointment will be accepted while supplies last.