PeaceHealth Southwest erects ER overflow tent

Clark County

Healthcare officials predict peak in hospitalization surge still weeks away

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — EMTs and paramedics are dropping off non-critical patients in hospital waiting rooms because emergency rooms are already full.

One of the ambulance services in Clark County told KOIN 6 News the two hospitals in the county are on “total ambulance divert” which means they’ve requested ambulances take patients to other hospitals. But there’s nowhere else to go.

PeaceHealth Southwest in Vancouver — which is a 450-bed facility — set up an overflow tent outside of its emergency room this week due to an “exceptionally high number of patients.” The tents are intended to serve as an overflow waiting area for patients seeking care.

The overflow tent outside the PeaceHealth Southwest ER. (PeaceHealth Southwest)

“For the last month, we’ve been seeing a steady surge and it’s gotten to the point where we don’t have a place where we can safely put our patients while they await care,” said Randy Querin with PeaceHealth. “We can’t sustain our operations the way they are if it continues to grow.”

Querin said the hospital may need to expand the overflow tent if the surge continues growing, which they expect.

“We’re very, very concerned about what might be coming around the corner,” said Querin.

Hospitals like PeaceHealth Southwest aren’t only scrambling to cope with incoming patients; Querin said they’re also struggling to discharge patients to other care centers such as skilled nursing facilities while also approaching critical staffing issues.

“Not just our hospital but every hospital is starting to see caregivers starting calling in sick with COVID-like symptoms. They’re not ill enough to come into the hospitals for care but they can’t come in to provide care,” he said.

Based on current data, healthcare officials predict the hospitalization surge hasn’t yet reached a plateau and the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.

“If today were the peak we would just say ‘oh, we made it’ but the forecast projections say the peak is still weeks away,” said Querin.

PeaceHealth is urging people to avoid coming to the emergency room unless it is a life-threatening emergency. They recommend visiting an urgent care clinic or talking to your doctor.

Clark County COVID-19 testing locations

They also said patients with mild symptoms are coming into the ER seeing COVID testing. This is putting a strain on resources.

Querin said they’re encouraging people to get the vaccine to help ease the strain on hospitals.

“PeaceHealth is a big proponent of the vaccines because they’re proven safe and effective and if people would just do that little part, it could really help our caregivers to maybe get a break from what they’ve been going through now for 16 months,” he said.

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