COVID hospitalizations are down and the flu is virtually non-existent this season, but St. Charles leaders say the hospital right now is busier than ever.
“Today, compared to a year ago, we’re roughly 10% higher, in terms of the volume of hospitalized patients,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, Chief Physican Executive. “However, if you look at patients hospitalized with acute medical illness, at times, we’re seeing that as much as 20% higher than what we had seen a year or so ago.”
Absalon said it’s hard to know exactly why, but he believes some people are waiting to seek medical attention until they are so sick they need to be admitted.
He said he’s hopeful increasing elective procedures will help.
“We’re starting in our critical access hospitals in Madras and Prineville,” he said. “So, this week they have picked up elective procedures. Next week, we’ll be doing so in Redmond. And, the week after that in Bend.”
The primary focus will be on outpatient surgeries to reduce the need for overnight stays.
He said the timeline could change if COVID hospitalizations tick back up.
St. Charles reported Wednesday it had 15 COVID patients, which is down from a peak of 59 back on Dec. 23rd.
Meanwhile, Deschutes County health officials have yet to report a single case of the flu this season.
The county’s flu tracker showed there were dozens of cases at this point last year.
Experts speculate the national decline in the flu this year is due to COVID precautions, such as increased hand-washing, social distancing and mask wearing.
All of these measures can prevent the spread of other contagious illnesses.
Additionally, not everyone with the flu gets tested or seeks medical attention.