So. Oregon hospitals sees long wait times, staff shortage amid virus surge

MEDFORD, Ore. – Across the state, cases of flu, RSV and COVID-19 putting a strain on hospitals.

Much like the rest of Oregon, Asante and Providence tell me they are struggling to keep up with the influx of patients.

“We’re seeing wait times like we’ve never seen before. People are sitting in our waiting room for 6, 7, 8 hours at a time,” Providence chief nursing officer Kate Kitchell said.

Providence and Asante in Medford are seeing a surge in flu cases, more COVID-19 hospitalizations and people with RSV, wreaking havoc on the local healthcare systems.

Last week, the Oregon Health Authority said hospitals statewide were dealing with these effects.

Now, both systems are acknowledging, its the same here at home.

“We have a full house, we’re at capacity at our hospital,” Kitchell said. “So patients who would traditionally be seen in our ED and then admitted to one our nursing units is sitting in our emergency department for days at a time.”

Asante said they’re experiencing much of the same. 

“We have been struggling to be frank,” Asante chief nursing officer Amanda Kotler said. “Much of our capacity constraints are still related to our inability to discharge our patients to long term or sub acute care which causes inefficiency or log jams our systems.”

Because both hospitals are at capacity most days, they’re having to transport patients out of state.

“Those situations where we may transfer to Asante historically, they don’t have beds or capacity,” Kitchell said. “So we’re having to manage that care at our hospital or transfer patients to Portland, Washington, California, as far over as Idaho, Colorado.”

According to Asante and Providence, they’re even seeing hospitalizations equal to or worse than during the peak of the pandemic. 

Even if the hospital isn’t at full capacity that day, the biggest problem they are facing is the lack of staffing.

Providence said some workers are exhausted with the grueling schedule or are getting sick themselves, having to call out for days at a time.

“The other issue is that we may have an open bed, but do we have a nurse, a doctor, a respiratory therapist to provide care for that patient,” Kitchell said.

A partnership between both Asante and Providence in conjunction with Jackson and Josephine County public health was created to help relieve the current strain on the healthcare system.

The collaboration includes opening a testing site for those with covid-19 and the flu.

Asante said it’s important to work together right now.

“I think it starts with us all being in the room together,” Kotler said. “Wanting to have the same mission and vision and care for our community. I think because of the high volume of high volume of patients requiring emergency services at this time we also really think it’s important to have shared messaging.”

Providence said a staffing crisis standards of care was declared.

Meaning, they will be allocated more resources to bring in nurses, doctors and other specialists.

Asante says they have not declared one yet.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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