A story circulating social media on Saturday — thanks to it being picked up by Rolling Stone and Rachel Maddow — claimed that hospitals in Oklahoma have been overwhelmed with people overdosing on horse dewormer, leaving gunshot victims in the lurch.
The story on its face was absurd, yet multiple media outlets pushed the claim, based on the word of a single doctor who gave an interview to KFOR. That doctor, Jason McElyea, claimed that the emergency rooms in Oklahoma “are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated.”
“All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it,” McElyea added. “If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”
That, combined with an unrelated quote about hospital capacity, formed the basis of Rolling Stone’s article insisting people are ingesting Ivermectin — a drug that has approved uses for humans and animals — at such high rates they are overwhelming hospitals.
The only people who would believe that are journalists who learned Ivermectin is a popular horse dewormer and wanted to run with the narrative that people were taking that version of it to treat COVID-19.
The truth is that hospitals in Oklahoma are not overrun with people taking horse dewormer. KFOR, Rolling Stone, and others had to add an update to the story including a comment from the hospital Dr. McElyea claimed was overwhelmed, since they couldn’t bother to check his outlandish story prior to publishing.
Northeastern Health System-Sequoyah, a hospital in Oklahoma, released a statement debunking McElyea’s claims:
Although Dr. Jason McElyea is not an employee of NHS Sequoyah, he is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room.
With that said, Dr. McElyea has not worked at our Sallisaw location in over 2 months.
NHS Sequoyah has not treated any patients due to complications related to taking ivermectin. This includes not treating any patients for ivermectin overdose.
All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate. Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care.
We want to reassure our community that our staff is working hard to provide quality healthcare to all patients. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this issue and as always, we value our community’s support.
Stephanie Six, hospital administrator at NHS Sequoyah, told KXMX that the hospital had “not seen or had any patients in our ER or hospital with ivermectin overdose” nor did it have “any patients with complaints or issues related to ivermectin.”
She reiterated that McElyea hadn’t treated patients at the NHS Sequoyah emergency room in several months.
“I can’t speak for what he has witnessed at other facilities but this is not true for ours,” Six said. “We certainly have not turned any patients away due to an overload of ivermectin related cases. All patients who have come into our ER have been treated as appropriate.”
The story should have been viewed with skepticism from the beginning since fewer than 500 calls about Ivermectin have been made to poison control centers across the country.