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OHSU’s emergency room overflowing with patients

Emergency rooms are feeling the impact of the Omicron surge and many are overwhelmed with patients.
Updated: Jan. 19, 2022 at 10:39 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Emergency rooms are feeling the impact of the Omicron surge and many are overwhelmed with patients.

“Typically we had an average of about 91 patients coming in per day now we’re seeing up about 160,” Laura Chess, MD/MPH Medical Director of OHSU’s ER Dept. and critical care physician, said. “With only a 31 bed ER you can imagine that’s a lot of patients.”

As of January 19, OHSU was treating 82 patients for COVID-19 but that number does not include patients in the emergency room. Chess said they’re overflowing with patients.

“We have converted our auditorium into a treatment area, that was in addition to adding I believe 22 total possible hallway beds for patients and that’s in addition to patients being seen in the lobby, seen in our triage area, our urgent care area, or on the pediatric side,” Chess said. “At one point we even had patients being boarded in their cars, seen in elevators just to be able to have a place to take care of patients.”

She said the ER is getting hit hard by this current surge and part of the problem stems from people coming in for symptoms that can be managed at home.

“They are taking up quite a few of the lobby chairs if you will but unfortunately too the large majority of patients that we’re seeing admitted from the ER are those who are unvaccinated who are testing positive for Omicron,” she said.

They’re also seeing patients who have delayed care through the pandemic.

“Due to the backlog of outpatient clinics, you know dialysis centers what have you of patients not being able to get their routine follow up care, we see more and more patients now coming to the ER for management of those illnesses,” she said.

Chess said now it’s more important than ever to only come to the ER for true emergencies.

“We recommend that patients who aren’t sick, if it’s not an emergency utilize your community resources, your outpatient COVID testing, your government distributed tests and leave the emergency room for those patients who need it most,” she said.