Tulsa Emergency Rooms Backed Up As Demand For COVID-19 Testing Surges

Tuesday, January 11th 2022, 7:51 pm

TULSA, Oklahoma -

Tulsa Hospitals are urging people who need COVID-19 testing to use alternatives, instead of showing up at emergency departments, which are busy with patients needing immediate attention.

Many of the people arriving at emergency rooms for testing are positive but don't need hospital level care and are sent home.

"We see a lot of both," said Steven Barnes, a nurse who is the Clinical Lead for Hillcrest Medical Center. "Some specifically that's their complaint, they're here for a COVID test. And then we have patients are exhibiting the symptoms, who appear sick as well."

COVID-19 testing sites are as busy as they've ever been and that's led to long waits for tests at many providers.

Terri Nordstrom, of Catoosa, waited more than three hours to get a test in Tulsa.

"There's lots of sites you can find online. The problem is finding someone who still has testing if you don't get there first thing in the morning," she said. Nordstrom said she left another site that ran out of tests while she was in line.

Experiences like that are pushing some patients to try hospital emergency rooms.

"We're understaffed, short staffed, there's an influx of a lot of patients into the ER, leading to overcrowding and people being treated in hallways, with long wait times in the waiting room," said Barnes.

Hillcrest had 109 COVID-19 patients January 11, while Saint Francis had 238. Both hospitals are seeing an increase in the numbers.

There's almost no wait for the vaccination at the many places where it's available. Both Hillcrest and Saint Francis report that 80-percent or more of their patients are unvaccinated.

Nurse Barnes, at Hillcrest, said it's also important to know when COVID-19 symptoms should trigger a trip to the ER or a call to 9-1-1.

"An emergent situation is difficulty breathing, chest pain, signs and symptoms like that. A lot of the stuff we see with COVID is respiratory related, so I feel like that would be one of the main symptoms, is severe shortness of breath."

Health departments are less busy choices for testing, however they do require appointments.

All of the hospitals can direct people to their testing sites and some pharmacies have drive-up testing as well.