Elective surgery backlog at Oregon health system causing problems for patients, staff

Bend, Ore.-based St. Charles Health is experiencing high patient volumes and an elective surgery backlog that is affecting both patients and staff alike.

Opal Larson was scheduled for a hip replacement at St. Charles Bend in March 2020. She's still waiting.

"It just got canceled," Ms. Larson told KTVZ June 14. She said the surgery has been scheduled and canceled three times.  

A St. Charles representative told KTVZ that the hospital just opened up a short-stay unit that could help alleviate the backlog.

Lisa Goodman, public information and government affairs officer for St. Charles Health System, confirmed with Becker's that the hospital is experiencing a backlog of elective surgeries.

"At different times throughout the year, we have been forced to limit the number of elective surgeries requiring an inpatient bed in order to ensure we have the beds and staffing available to care for the high number of patients we are seeing — not just COVID-19 patients, but all patients," Ms. Goodman said.

Regarding the high patient volumes, Ms. Goodman said: "We typically consider the spring time our 'shoulder season' when we see fewer sick patients and traumas. But this spring we have been busier than ever, with all four of our hospitals at or near capacity most days. We attribute our high patient census to COVID and the impact of delayed care." 

Ms. Goodman said St. Charles Bend is still seeing a significant amount of COVID-19 patients. On June 15, the hospital had 26 COVID-19 patients, seven of whom required intensive care. As recently as late May, the hospital had more than 50 COVID patients, Ms. Goodman said. "We can't stress enough how important it is for people in our community, and everywhere, to get vaccinated."

Staffing continues to be a challenge, with nearly 700 open positions across the health system, Ms. Goodman said. In the meantime, the system is relying on travel nurses to help fill the gaps.


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