PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Dr. Scott Nelson is one of a half-dozen health care professionals in Josephine County who stood before county commissioners this week and described dire circumstances facing hospitals as COVID-19 cases surge in southern Oregon.

“Gentlemen, please understand us when we say this is real, this is happening. What we are seeing today is different than we’ve ever seen before,” Nelson told the commissioners. “This Delta variant is not what we have seen before, so unfortunately all of these thoughts and ideas that we have had have to go out the window.”

Data from the Oregon Health Authority show 94% of the state’s adult ICU beds are occupied. The data also shows that most of the COVID patients in those ICU beds are unvaccinated.

“The vaccine was never touted to be 100% effective and we’re seeing that, but it is very effective in that it’s keeping those people that are infected pretty safe compared to the ones who are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Megan Frost.

Frost, a surgeon at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass, told the board of commissioners the hospital has been forced to cancel elective surgeries — like a hernia repair or hip replacement. But the reality is they’re not doing any operations unless someone is dying.

“I spent all of last week — and I’ll continue to do it this week and next week and the following weeks — to call all of my patients who have cancer to tell them, ‘I’m sorry we cannot do your cases right now. I don’t know when we’ll be able to do your cases. In the best of circumstances it looks like it’s going to be a couple of months, in the worst of circumstances it may be next spring,'” she said.

Hospitals plan for patient surge

KOIN 6 News asked OHA officials if there are any plans to relocate patients in southern Oregon to the tri-county area. There are.

Every major hospital in the Portland metro area told KOIN 6 News they are prepared with bed capacity in the event of a surge.

Kaiser Permanente officials said they’re setting up a tent outside each location, just to be ready in case they’re needed.

OHSU said they have surge capacity but said they would have to find staff to work that space — which is an entirely different issue.

Officials with the Oregon Health Authority said they’ve been in contact with FEMA and the US Departent of Health and Human Services about what the state would need in order to staff field hospitals. More meetings are scheduled for Thursday.