Aug. 26, 2021
I’ve told you recently in this column that St. Charles is in crisis – and that remains even more true now than it was a few weeks ago. Today, I’d like to share what I am hearing from colleagues in Southern Oregon and throughout the state.
The current COVID-19 surge has completely overwhelmed the health system in Southern Oregon. The Asante health system reported this week it has more than 180 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in its three hospitals. One of their ICU nurses explains what COVID patients go through during treatment in this powerful video.
In Grants Pass, the demand for ICU beds is so great, that the hospital is putting two patients in each ICU room. And with staffing shortages plaguing health care throughout the nation, nursing ratios in Southern Oregon have deteriorated. It’s not uncommon now for one nurse to care for as many as 10 patients (when normally a nurse might care for three or four.)
Just a few days ago, a patient died in the Emergency Department at CHI Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg while waiting for an ICU bed. The exhausted team that is working so hard to save people had no words other than, “We didn’t have enough.”
As COVID cases continue to climb, St. Charles is preparing for a similar reality in Central Oregon. We now have more COVID patients than at any other point in the pandemic and we continue breaking our own record every day. Today’s total is 77 COVID inpatients, with 15 of them on ventilators. We have 58 ventilators in our health system (for all patients including infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) – but only 20 of the high-capacity-style that we typically use for treatment in the Bend ICU. We are asking the state to send us more, but it is a complicated process and we are unsure when or if the ask will be met.
While the situation feels dire, I do want you to know that we are working around the clock to be as prepared as possible for the worst-case scenario. Here are just a few of the steps we’ve taken:
• About 130 members of the Oregon National Guard are here working in our facilities in non-clinical roles. These men and women willingly left their families and jobs to help us through this trying time. They are gracious and incredibly eager to help with any task including re-stocking supplies on the floors, delivering food to patients, helping to support fit testing our caregivers for N-95 masks, screening visitors at our entrances and so much more. We are beyond grateful for their help.
• We have requested nursing and other clinical resources through the Oregon Health Authority, and FEMA. After advocating as strongly as possible, we now anticipate receiving support as early as this weekend. This will be a tremendous help in allowing us to serve those with acute health care needs during this crisis.
• Last week the St. Charles team worked tirelessly to set up an Urgent Care clinic in our 2600 NE Neff Road building, along with a drive-through COVID testing site. These efforts have helped to reduce the patient volumes in the Bend Emergency Department.
• We are also working to expand our ability to provide monoclonal antibody therapy for patients who test positive for COVID-19 to more sites throughout the region. Our experience with this therapy so far has been very encouraging in keeping COVID-positive patients from needing hospitalization.
It’s not too late for you to also help us through this current surge. If you haven’t yet, please get vaccinated. The FDA granted full approval of the Pfizer COVID vaccine this week and we are hopeful this news will lead to higher vaccination rates.
And as mask mandates – indoor and outdoor – return, we ask that you abide by them. Get vaccinated for yourself and wear your mask for others. At this point it may be the very least you can do to ensure your loved ones have access to any kind of health care if they need it in the next few weeks.
Sincerely, Joe P.S.