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OU amid coronavirus: OU Medicine starting new phase to re-open previously impacted services

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OU Medicine has started phasing in services that were put on hold or reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including elective surgical procedures and regular medical services admissions, according to Friday’s OU Medicine livestream.

Some OU Physicians Primary Care clinics will begin a phased reopening May 4, said Lynn Mitchell, chief medical officer for OU Physicians. While monitoring the numbers of COVID-19 cases, every two weeks more patients will be able to come in and more clinics will be able to return to full business, Mitchell said.

“We want to make sure that anything we're going to do as we start to ramp back up (is done) in a safe manner,” Mitchell said.

Cameron Mantor, acting chief medical officer for OU Medical Center, said there will be an increase in outpatient surgery operations being done at OU’s adult and children’s hospitals, preserving the number of hospital beds available.

In order to resume these services, Mantor said the first step was to ensure there was enough personal protective equipment for both patients and caregivers, and increase test capacity in order to test all patients for the coronavirus. 

“At OU we’re fortunate that we're able to have in-house testing, and we can get tests back within as little as two hours,” Mantor said. “And so each patient who is now having an operative procedure is being asked to come and be tested before their operative procedures.”

With many worried about getting infected, Mantor said emergency room rates have significantly dropped during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Mantor said the likelihood of someone getting infected at the hospital rather than by community spread is low in Oklahoma.

“If you need care, you should seek care and so I want to make sure that people realize it is safe to come to the hospital,” Mantor said.

As for the clinics, Mitchell said when patients come in they will be screened with questions and may or may not be tested based on their answers. Patients will be given masks both at clinics and hospitals.

While these steps are being taken to provide more care for Oklahomans, Mantor said he would like to emphasize that social distancing in the community is still very important.

“Everybody is incredibly excited about the idea that we are getting back to a slight piece of normalcy … but please realize the virus is not gone,” Mantor said. “It is still there. And our greatest risk, I think, is still the community. … Do all those things that we've been doing for the past four to six weeks, because …  if we don't, then I think things could very potentially be worse for us in Oklahoma.”

Jana Allen is a journalism junior and the Daily's enterprise reporter. She was formerly a news reporter, and held several editor positions on the news desk before transitioning to enterprise.

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