Field hospital may return as officials sound alarm about hospital capacity

Coronavirus

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s office says “all options are on the table,” including setting up a field hospital again, as health officials work to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, Gov. Brown spokesperson Charles Boyle said additional field hospital set up by the Office of Emergency Management and Oregon Health Authority, much like the one that was set up last spring, would be a contingency plan as OHA and regional hospitals work together to share capacity and maximize available resources.

“We need to slow the spread as much as we can to preserve hospital capacity,” Boyle said. “That is the best course of action as we evaluate all decisions at the table.”

Meanwhile, health officials say hospitals will be overwhelmed in a matter of weeks, and it’s why they’re asking everyone to take this shut down seriously.

“It’s important to remember, Dr. Renee Edwards, Oregon Health and Science University’s chief medical officer, told KOIN 6 News on Wednesday. “There’s a lag between the number of cases and the number of people in the hospital, which means right now hospitals are bracing for a surge of patients as case counts hit record levels.”

Edwards said the people who are in OHSU’s Intensive Care Unit right now are the people who were infected two and three weeks ago when case counts were lower.

OHSU is already at 89% capacity in the CU and is 93% full in all other beds. However, it’s not not just available beds: the hospital is having to find enough staff to care for everyone and nine months into this pandemic, health care workers are understandably exhausted.

Another consideration is that if hospitals fill up with COVID-19 patients, that also means people can’t get in for other surgeries and needed care.

“If hospitals fill up with COVID-19 patients, that also means people can’t get in for other surgeries and needed care. So we all need to do our part now to keep that from happening, Edwards said.

Edwards said they’re managing right now, but they’re concerned things will become much more critical four weeks from now. So she’s urging all of us to think about our health care workers when we consider how important it is to take this shut down seriously. A statewide “freeze,” or partial lockdown, starts Wednesday after it was announced by Gov. Kate Brown on Friday.

On Tuesday, Oregon reported another 935 new confirmed and presumptive cases along with 13 more deaths. The statewide total for all cases is now at 58,570 and the death toll stands at 778.

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