Joint Letter to our Oklahoma Community

January 18, 2022

Dear Fellow Oklahomans,

Our emergency departments are overflowing. Our caregivers are still strong, but they are exhausted. Even these heroes can’t keep up much longer. The Oklahoma City health care system is at a breaking point.

Soon, you or a loved one may need us for life-saving care, whether for a stroke, emergency appendectomy or trauma from a car accident, and we might not be able to help. This pandemic isn’t just impacting care for COVID patients.

We have 300 fewer beds than we did last year at this time, but we have the same number of COVID positive patients in the hospital – and this number will continue to go up, at least for the next few weeks. It’s a desperate battle and we need you to be aware and help.

Your local hospitals are trying to adapt as best we can to these circumstances. Unfortunately, between our four health systems, we have hundreds of co-workers in quarantine or unable to come to work due to kids out of school and no available childcare. This has nearly crippled our already limited staff. Nurses are having to stretch to care for several more patients than they usually do. This is devastating and prevents us from being able to provide the excellent care we’ve been trained to give and that you’ve received in the past.

We have zero ICU beds and no inpatient beds available. This morning, all of our health systems across the Oklahoma City metro had a total of 107 patients in our emergency departments waiting for an open bed. They are waiting on inpatient or ICU beds, which are not available. To make matters even more difficult, many people who do not require emergency care are seeking COVID testing in our ERs that are there to serve very sick people.

We need you to know what we are up against. We need your help. We want to see you in our ERs if you are experiencing a true emergency, like trouble breathing. But we have to preserve our very limited resources for truly sick patients. If you’re asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms, please visit one of the many community testing locations hosted by the health department or IMMY Labs. Get vaccinated. Get boosted. Wear your mask. Socially distance. Stay home if you’re sick.

We also need you to be kind to our caregivers and co-workers. Patients are coming to us struggling to cope with life stressors, and violence against health care workers is at an all-time high. Our caregivers are wounded from this two-year battle and are being asked to work under unconscionable conditions. Please be kind and patient with them.

Please do your part so fellow Oklahomans, our loved ones and neighbors, will have medical care available to them when needed.

With concern and compassion,

Julie Watson, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer


Chad Smith, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer

Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City

P. Cameron Mantor, M.D.

Acting Chief Medical Officer

OU Health

Kersey Winfree, M.D.

Chief Medical Officer

SSM St. Anthony