Oregon health system struggling to fill more than 600 open positions, CEO says

Bend, Ore.-based St. Charles Health System, which put out a plea to the community May 28 as it faced a capacity crisis, said the capacity situation has improved, but staffing issues persist as the four-hospital organization struggles to fill more than 600 open positions.

"Our beds at all four hospitals were full. We were opening overflow spaces for patient care, canceling procedures and crossing our fingers that people would not accidentally hurt themselves over Memorial Day weekend," President and CEO Joe Sluka wrote in his latest newsletter June 3.

"Thankfully, our system was not overwhelmed by traumas, our number of hospitalized COVID patients is lower than previous weeks and, as of today, we have beds and staff available to provide acute and critical care to those in need," he added.

But he said the situation brings to light issues around capacity and staffing, which are complex. He said St. Charles has increased capacity in recent years through various construction projects, and any such projects require the appropriate staffing to support them.

At the same time, he noted that healthcare organizations across the U.S. struggle to hire staff, and his organization currently has more than 600 open positions. St. Charles has more than 4,600 caregivers, meaning the open roles represent about 13 percent of the workforce.

Mr. Sluka said the organization has taken multiple steps to deal with the issues at hand, including investing in primary care, collaborating with community partners to boost post-acute care capacity in Central Oregon, continuing virtual visits, and considering new ways to provide care outside of hospital settings.

Read Mr. Sluka's full newsletter here

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