Photo Credit: 
Courtesy | Comanche County Memorial Hospital
Nurses don gowns and gloves inside Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton.
Nurses don gowns and gloves inside Comanche County Memorial Hospital in Lawton.

LAWTON — Comanche County Memorial Hospital’s COVID-19 patient population increased by 19% in a single day leaving healthcare officials tasked to find enough beds for everyone.

“We have no COVID unit and they’re not all in ICU,” said hospital spokeswoman Nicole Jolly.

According to the state Health Department, Comanche County has 496 active COVID-19 cases.

CCMH had 30 COVID-19 patients on Aug. 24, and 24 hours later seven more people with COVID were admitted. Of that total, 29 are in acute care and eight are in critical care, Jolly said.

Heather Love, director of quality and safety at CCMH, said COVID-19 patients are being placed wherever beds are available including the med-surg and emergency departments.

“Our ICU is overflowing,” she said. “We see it getting worse before it gets better. That’s why we need people to get vaccinated. That’s not the case just here in our hospital; that’s the case nationwide.”

Most of the COVID-19 patients at the hospital are younger and have not been vaccinated, Love said. Vaccinated COVID-19 patients are not as sick and are able to stay home instead of being admitted to the hospital, she added.

“It’s just like the flu. If you get the shot you’re going to recover quicker, and you won’t be as sick.” Unfortunately, we’re seeing it (COVID-19) spread because of sports and school in general,” she said.

Hospital officials said they’re hopeful some opposition to the vaccine will disappear since the Food & Drug Administration gave final approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine earlier this week. Moderna is also seeking final approval for its vaccine.

As of Aug. 23, Comanche County had a fully vaccinated rate of 48.8%, according to information from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Statewide, 1.4 million people have been fully vaccinated.

Love said the hospital has kept its disaster protocols in place from last year when the first COVID surge struck the U.S.

“We learned a lot from the last one,” she said. “We did improve on our methodology. I wish it had been a one and done, but here we are.”

Another problem CCMH officials are having is a shortage of healthcare workers.

“We lost people from the healthcare field last time because of the stress COVID created and people not wanting to face the risks,” Love said. “But that’s not just a problem here; everyone else is facing that.”

As a result, CCMH has increased the number of contract personnel with registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants.

“All of our areas are shorthanded,” Love said. “As a community, what can we do to help others? I wish I had an easy answer, but I don’t. Getting the vaccine would help as will wearing masks and following the handwashing and social distancing guidelines.”

Across the state, in the last 30 days, nearly 2,200 unvaccinated individuals have been hospitalized, compared to 185 vaccinated individuals. More than 90% of hospitalizations are occurring in unvaccinated individuals while death occurs in just 0.5% of vaccinated cases, the health department reported.