Staffing, capacity issues force St. Charles to push elective surgeries to 2022

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After announcing last week it was delaying some elective surgeries, St. Charles has decided to push all of them into 2022 as it deals with capacity limits and unprecedented staff shortages.

Any surgeries that required overnight stays have been removed from the schedule.

And any cases that require an overnight stay will be reviewed and prioritized by the health system’s Surgical Triage Committee, officials said.

“To maintain bed capacity for patients who are acutely ill or injured, we are only able to allocate five beds per day for patients needing a hospital stay following a procedure,” said Lisa Goodman, the hospital’s public information officer.

Same-day, outpatient procedures will not be affected.

The hospital is currently trying to fill more than 500 open positions and has offered $10,000 signing bonuses to attract registered nurses to the area.

Capacity-wise, as of Friday morning, the Bend hospital was 97% full.

The system as a whole – including facilities in Redmond, Prineville, Madras and La Pine – was at 95%.

All told, the system has 381 beds.

“What that translates to is we don’t have enough beds for the number of patients who need care,” Goodman said.

On Thursday, 17 people were “boarded” in the emergency department because there weren’t enough inpatient beds for them.

“This is now almost a daily occurrence and a very serious situation that we’re struggling to manage,” Goodman said.

COVID isn’t causing the issue, but it’s contributing.

The hospital on Friday reported it had 32 COVID patients; three are in the ICU and two are on ventilators.

“This is bigger than COVID,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, St. Charles’ chief physician officer in an email to the community Friday. “There is a cascading effect that is causing incredible strain on the health system.”

That cascading effect is trickling down to the community, he said.

“We need to stress: This impacts you,” Absalon said. “You need to take care of your health. Eat well. Make sure to exercise your body. Take your medication as prescribed. See your primary care provider and stay on track with your checkups and preventive screenings.”

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