▶️ COVID spike creating myriad of issues at St. Charles; staff exhausted

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The COVID-19 delta variant is doing our community no favors, that includes patients and employees in the St. Charles Health System.

Hospital officials held a virtual town hall Tuesday afternoon to discuss lack of capacity, staff fatigue, and a concerning spike in COVID cases.

“I think it goes without saying that many are aware of the challenges we face,” Aaron Adams, St. Charles Bend and Redmond president said.

COVID cases in Deschutes County have been climbing for five straight weeks with 39 COVID patients at St. Charles reported Tuesday.

“We keep hearing folks referring to the pandemic being over,” Doug Merrill, M.D., St. Charles Bend and Redmond chief medical officer said. “When in fact, it’s ramping up just as rapidly or more rapidly.”

Deschutes County reported 388 new cases last week, the most new cases since mid-January.

It is numbers like this that are pushing St. Charles close to capacity far too often.

“What we’ve seen just month after month since the pandemic has begun is that we’re running at max capacity pretty much every day,” Adams said. “When we’re not, we’re starting the day somewhere in 90, 95% occupancy.”

St. Charles officials do believe the next COVID surge is coming with the delta variant being a driving force.

“Rapidly over four weeks, we came to almost 100% of our positive samples were of the delta variant,” Cynthia Maree, M.D., St. Charles Infection Prevention Services medical director said. “For the unvaccinated, they’re about twice as infectious as for other variants.”

Employees are exhausted and the hospital is understaffed with 125 R.N. positions currently up for grabs.

“Asking this group to manage a full hospital every day,” Adams said. “Asking people to continuously pick up extra shifts is not really a sustainable model.”

But could required vaccinations or weekly testing for health care workers make this situation worse?

“There’s some personal choice that’s associated with this that could have some drawbacks,” Adams said. “There’s still a lot that’s unknown here, but we still need to pursue those vaccinations and I think we understand and support why the governor’s office did this.”

As for the general public, St. Charles says there are things we can do including wearing a mask, not delaying care, and getting vaccinated.

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