SALEM, Ore. — A request from local officials for the establishment of a field hospital in Jackson County will not be filled for the time being, a spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority told NewsWatch 12 on Thursday. Instead, the needs of overburdened hospitals in the Rogue Valley will be met with additional staffing.
Jackson County Public Health and the local hospital systems have been requesting help from state and federal agencies since at least August 11 — which included requests for crucial supplies like ventilators, more healthcare staff, and places to put patients that are currently crowding hospitals.
The field hospital was one of those requests, which has since been making its way up the ladder to federal agencies like Health & Human Services and FEMA. Jackson County public health officials have said that requests for ventilators have been filled quickly. The rest has been harder to come by.
According to Jonathan Modie, lead communications officer for the Oregon Health Authority, the field hospital has been placed on the backburner as the state works to fill the staffing need.
"The field hospital request has changed to medical staff augmentation," Modie said. "Conditions change continually as we work with our FEMA and HHS partners, our hospital partners and others in order to best respond."
Part of that need will be filled by the new state contracts with medical staffing companies announced by Governor Kate Brown's office on Wednesday, promising about 560 personnel, on top of the National Guard service members already deployed to help with logistics.
"Medical staff would focus primarily in central and southern Oregon, where the need is currently greatest, although they could be re-deployed as needs change statewide," Modie continued.
The staffing approach is two-fold — while some of the hospital crisis teams will be sent to healthcare centers like Asante and Providence, others will be sent to long-term care facilities where patients who are stable but still recovering from COVID-19 illnesses can go, clearing up room at the hospitals.
Modie said that a team from HHS was in Oregon early this week to conduct assessments in both southern and central Oregon. OHA is hopeful this means that they will see more federal resources, but those are stretched thin as well because "many states are struggling."
On top of the nurses and other healthcare staff contracted to help in the hardest-hit areas of the state, Modie said that the state will receive 24 EMT-paramedics through the FEMA National Ambulance Contract to support seven hospital Emergency Departments as "extenders." They arrived in the state on Sunday, and are now at work in hospitals around the state.
Currently there are five paramedics from this group at Asante Rogue Regional, five at Asante Three Rivers, and four at Providence Medford Medical Center. They are expected to stay at these hospitals through September 20, with an opportunity for extension.
Modie said that the paramedics came from all over the US, and are primarily serving in Emergency Departments as techs or to support as techs on other floors as needed.