PORTLAND, Ore. — With coronavirus cases surging and hospital capacity dwindling in Oregon, Providence says that it is readying for the potentiality of overflowing hospitals in the Portland area.
In a statement, Providence addressed changes that some people may notice immediately at two of its largest hospitals, Providence Portland Medical Center and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center — namely, the arrival of temporary morgues and surge tents.
"Providence has made many changes to our services these past months to plan for and care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19," the medical provider said. "Though treatments have improved and more patients are surviving COVID-19, we need to extend our limited morgue capacity so that we can respectfully handle all patients who die."
Providence said that it will set up two large, temporary mortuary trailers in Portland in case they are needed. There will be chaplains on hand to bless the trailers when they arrive, and aid in ensuring that the dead are honored and respected.
The hospitals still plan to utilize existing morgues and partner funeral homes first, but are planning for the potential of a worst-case scenario in the event that the situation becomes as dire as it has in other areas of the country.
"This is another reason why it is so important for everyone to follow the known steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19: wear masks, maintain social distancing, limit or avoid social gatherings, stay home as much as possible and wash your hands," Providence said.
Surge tents are being set up outside of the emergency departments at Providence Portland and Providence St. Vincent, allowing additional space for those coming in to seek emergency care. They'll also be used to conduct assessments and socially distanced waiting space.
"When you say flatten the curve, what we’re really trying to say is, 'allow us to do our jobs,'" said Dr. Justin Jin, infectious disease physician at Providence Portland. "We realize people are going to get sick, but if you completely overrun the hospital system, you’re going to have more COVID deaths, and you’re also going to have more deaths from other causes."
Providence said that it is currently caring for 90 people in its Oregon hospitals with either confirmed or suspected cases of coronavirus. As of the Oregon Health Authority's latest report, 414 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 are currently hospitalized at facilities across the state — 96 in ICU beds, and 37 on ventilators.
"This is serious . . . serious for every person in this hospital," said Jaclyn Center, R.N. and associate nurse manager for critical care services. "We're all working hard, the patients are sick . . . we all want to see our family and friends, but in the long run, wouldn't you rather see them for more years to come?"