St. Charles submits emergency request for ICU nurses amid patient crunch

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St. Charles has submitted an emergency request for additional ICU nurses to help them navigate a surge in patients hospital-wide.

The request was first submitted to Deschutes County, which then sent it to the state level to launch a wider search.

“We have been doing periodic resource requests throughout the pandemic for testing supplies, gloves, etc. when we have been unable to secure these items ourselves,” said Kayley Mendenhall, a St. Charles spokeswoman. “This resource request is for staffing (ICU nurses) and we have given the State the specifications for what we need. For instance, we have specified that they must have an Oregon RN license.”

St. Charles on Friday reported it had 36 COVID patients; four were in the ICU and three are on ventilators.

But the entire 24-bed Intensive Care Unit is full.

The hospital allowed the media inside the Bend ICU on Thursday to provide a glimpse of the situation there.

Officials said the hospital is at capacity because of a continued surge in COVID patients but also because there’s been a rush of patients who had delayed treatment over the past year.

In fact, two critical care patients were flown to a Boise hospital on Thursday and several other patients waited in beds in the ER hallway because most of the rooms in Bend were full.

Debbie Robinson, the chief nursing officer of St. Charles Bend said Friday they have 15 patients needing an inpatient bed beyond capacity.

“We have been sourcing additional RN resources from throughout the United States,” she said. “Although we have received many ICU travelers we have not been able to fill all of our needs. We have come closer to filling all of our acute care nursing needs.”

The hospital has been able to resource 40 additional nurses, but still needs about 10 more, Robinson said.

Mendenhall said the state is now trying to fill the request with resources at its disposal – such as through state agencies, organizations, and the Oregon Disaster Medical Team.

According to the state’s volunteer health care network, the hospital is looking for staff to fill 12-hour shifts for 24/7 coverage June 1-15.

The callout says the care will be for a mix of COVID positive and non-COVID patients.

“Resources could be paid or volunteer depending on their source, but all would be fully qualified and licensed,” Mendenhall said, adding that the National Guard has not been called yet.

The hospital has 229 critical care nurses including 90 who work in the Intensive Care Unit.

St. Charles President Joe Sluka emailed the community on Friday urging them to be careful over the busy holiday weekend.

“We are concerned that if someone comes in on Saturday with a severe injury or suffering from a heart attack, we may not have space to admit them to the hospital,” he said. “Skip the ATV ride or the ambitious hike and enjoy the holiday close to home. I assure you, now is not the time to get hurt and have to come visit us.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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