Oregon health officials ask residents to mask up as hospitals near capacity

A combination of severe staffing shortages, financial challenges and rising hospital admissions are straining capacity at Oregon hospitals. Health officials are now asking residents to mask up to prevent further strain on the state's healthcare system. 

Twenty-one of the state's 36 counties are currently seeing "high" COVID-19 levels, according to the CDC. 

"[Hospitals] are extremely stressed and doing everything they can to provide quality care for everyone across our state," state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger, MD, said during a July 20 media briefing, according to Oregon Live. "But we all have a role to do in helping support them." 

Oregon Public Broadcasting cited state data showing just 7 percent of hospital beds in the state available as of July 20. Rising hospital admissions are in part due to COVID-19, though staffing shortages seem to be playing an even larger role in the current capacity issues, which are affecting Central and Southern Oregon especially hard, according to OPB

"Our staffing shortages have really impacted our ability to staff all beds at all times," Iman Simmons, chief operating officer at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., told OPB. As of July 19, 96 percent of inpatient adults at the hospital were occupied, with six emergency room patients awaiting admission. 

Two nurses at the hospital told OPB working conditions have worsened over the last few months. Some providers are skipping scheduled breaks and working 16-hour days, the nurses said. 

Across the border, many Washington hospitals are operating "dramatically over capacity," driven by staffing strains and delayed discharges. 


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