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Jackson and Josephine county hospitals sound the alarm: 'We're out of beds, our staff are stretched'

Representatives from Asante, Providence, and Jackson and Josephine County Public Health held a press conference on Thursday to outline the dire COVID-19 situation in southwest Oregon.

Posted: Aug 12, 2021 10:51 AM
Updated: Aug 12, 2021 6:21 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Representatives from Asante, Providence, and Jackson and Josephine County Public Health held a press conference on Thursday to outline the dire COVID-19 situation in southwest Oregon.

"We have surpassed anything we've seen before, in terms of this disease," said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County health officer.


Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center

Jackson County reported a dizzying 416 new cases on Thursday, another new record for daily cases after hitting 267 earlier this week. Across Jackson and Josephine counties, 150 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those patients, 41 were in an intensive care unit (ICU) and 13 were on a ventilator. There were only four ICU beds available across the region as of Thursday morning.

Dr. Shames underlined that both cases and hospitalizations continue to break records, and the only way forward is for the local community to come together and help bend the curve by getting vaccinated and masking in public spaces. Only 5 percent of current hospitalizations are vaccinated, Shames said.

Michael Weber, director of Josephine County Public Health, said that the counties are lobbying the state for some form of pressure relief with hospitals full.

"This is the worst condition our hospitals have seen, likely ever," Weber said.

Hospitalizations are also hitting younger groups than seen earlier in the pandemic, which Dr. Shames attributed to the high vaccination rate among seniors. About 7 percent of hospitalizations are among people 70 or older.

For Asante and Providence, the sustained rise in hospitalizations means that their hospitals are essentially operating at maximum capacity. In some cases, healthcare workers are working around beds and medical equipment set up in hallways, some of them pulling 20-hour shifts to helps serve the needs of patients.

"We're out of beds, our staff are stretched, and we're running out of resources," said Amanda Kotler, Vice President of Nursing at Asante in Ashland.

Kotler said that Asante has had to cancel more than 350 surgeries to make room for the surge in COVID-19 patients, denying more than 200 patient referrals, and daily have between 10 and 40 patients waiting for available Emergency Room beds. Kotler also clarified that the kind of "elective" surgeries being canceled are not merely cosmetic — many of them are vital, life-altering procedures.

While the state's metrics on hospital capacity for the region show some available beds, Kotler indicated that looks are deceiving. Asante Ashland's critical care beds have been full, and other beds freed up to serve as contingency critical care are filled up as quickly as they're made available.

"We are beyond full," Kotler said.

At Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass, staff have erected a tent outside of the emergency department entrance. Officials said that that the tent is available during the day for emergency patients with lower-acuity needs, like sprains and minor stitches, to reserve the indoor area for more critical cases.

Dr. Jamie Grebosky, Asante's chief medical officer, said that 28 percent of Oregon's COVID-19 patients within the last 30 days have been at Asante facilities in southern Oregon. 35 percent of those patients have needed critical care.

Though Providence has a statewide system of hospitals, officials said that they are seeing the same challenges as those seen at Asante in southern Oregon. Staff have been working through a pandemic for 18 months, and there are not enough beds or staff to serve this number of patients at this level of care.

"It's cause for great concern with an already overburdened situation in our community," said Providence Medford Medical Center chief executive officer Chris Pizzi, commenting on the upward trajectory of cases in Jackson County. "I'm fearful that the darkest days of this pandemic may be ahead of us."

Jackson County has made a request to the state for the establishment of a field hospital to handle hospital overflow in the region, in addition to requests for more ventilators and solutions to the crisis in staffing.

Statewide, hospitalizations for COVID-19 reached 670 as of Thursday. Of those patients, 177 were in an ICU. Both numbers continue to rise on a daily basis.

“Our hospitals are full. Patients are boarding and being cared for in emergency departments when they should be admitted to hospital beds. Our ICUs are full," said Dr. David Zonies, associate chief medical officer and professor of surgery at OHSU. "Our doctors and nurses are exhausted and rightfully frustrated because this crisis is avoidable. It is like watching a train wreck coming and knowing that there’s an opportunity to switch tracks, yet we feel helpless while we watch unnecessary loss of life. That is why it is essential that we all do our part to get vaccinated and wear a mask indoors.”

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 394569

Reported Deaths: 5243
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah60720847
Washington42359405
Marion40153516
Clackamas33040387
Lane30428361
Jackson25105363
Deschutes23795189
Umatilla15144184
Linn14859183
Douglas13523293
Josephine10278247
Yamhill9840143
Klamath9112149
Polk8325102
Benton615338
Malheur593292
Coos5768109
Columbia438056
Jefferson424366
Lincoln365852
Crook343057
Union340756
Wasco318646
Clatsop263635
Baker221833
Tillamook218046
Hood River216537
Morrow197825
Curry193939
Harney121333
Grant109116
Lake105617
Wallowa76313
Sherman1933
Gilliam1854
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5105427

Reported Deaths: 74781
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles153243027225
San Diego4091824350
Riverside3892365381
San Bernardino3762805983
Orange3352965756
Sacramento1690952452
Kern1582701828
Fresno1574692270
Santa Clara1528571928
Alameda1256281512
San Joaquin1080791835
Ventura1043091192
Contra Costa1042181056
Stanislaus919641429
Tulare867391100
San Francisco57141674
San Mateo56585631
Monterey52842626
Solano47828360
Santa Barbara47523555
Merced45309671
Sonoma43349414
Placer42458473
Imperial38932776
Kings35370367
San Luis Obispo31667360
Madera26388311
Shasta26221461
Butte25608318
Santa Cruz22402224
Yolo21722261
Marin18587249
El Dorado18448168
Sutter14646186
Napa13446106
Yuba1079891
Tehama10316131
Humboldt10294119
Nevada10112105
Mendocino864999
Lassen797656
San Benito787979
Tuolumne778491
Lake7057113
Amador580067
Siskiyou479657
Glenn458536
Calaveras445788
Del Norte377942
Colusa328321
Inyo257346
Plumas19577
Mono19034
Mariposa162218
Trinity100717
Modoc7936
Sierra2190
Unassigned1560
Alpine1080
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