MEDFORD, Ore. — With local hospitals reaching maximum capacity, Jackson County has made requests to the state for the establishment of a field hospital, an influx of staffing, and the equipment necessary to keep patients with severe COVID-19 cases alive.
In Oregon's hospital Region 5, which covers Jackson and Josephine counties, 145 people are currently in the hospital with COVID-19. 43 people are in intensive care units. According to the Oregon Health Authority's data, there are 47 staffed hospital beds currently available in the region, but only four available ICU beds.
Meanwhile, Jackson County continues to see a surge in cases. Public health officials reported 247 new cases on Wednesday — now the second-highest number of new daily cases since the pandemic began, beaten only by Tuesday's count.
“I would say it is very risky to go indoors among strangers in Jackson County at this moment in time there's just so much virus out there," said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County Health Officer.
With the increase in cases and hospitalizations comes a need for more staffing. Dr. Shames says that there have been conversations with the OHA about acquiring more ventilators for the hospitals.
“We are fully supportive of whatever the hospitals need — we are kind of all in this together. We are requesting help from the state in terms of supplies like ventilators but staffing is critical. We got to get staffing, we got to get a place to put the patients that can no longer be in the hospital. That's a really big deal . . . we need to figure out a way to have that nursing homes and the other long-term care facilities can except our patients back," Dr. Shames said
Dr. Shames told Newswatch 12 that this is a solvable problem but it’s also a team effort. They need help from the state and nursing homes as well.
“The work for that is happening between the hospitals and the Oregon Health Authority and the department of human resources. We are doing everything we can to help and encourage and to get the word out but that’s the problem that relates to the hospitals and they are working on solving it,” Dr. Shames added.
All of this comes as Jackson County Board of Commissioners sent a request to the State of Oregon for a field hospital in Jackson County.
County Commissioner Rick Dyer says that if the state is unable to accommodate that request, another request will be made for FEMA to do it. Dyer said the Expo has been listed as a potential site for the field hospital, but there is nothing concrete at this moment.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.