PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - Portland-area hospitals are once again delaying elective and non-urgent surgeries to free up space during the COVID-19 surge that’s only expected to get worse in coming days and weeks.
Oregon and Washington state health officials have predicted that hospitals could reach full capacity by mid-December.
PeaceHealth said Tuesday that it will be delaying elective procedures and non-urgent surgeries at its hospitals in Vancouver and Longview.
Dr. Lawrence Neville, the chief medial officer for PeaceHealth Southwest and St. John Hospital, said patients will be evaluated on whether their health or well-being would deteriorate within 90 days of pushing back a surgery. Those whose conditions won’t worsen, will be required to reschedule their procedures.
“We do have a very sophisticated plan in place to be able to calibrate downward on surgeries still further if we need to accommodate additional patients and additional COVID patients,” Neville said.
A Providence spokeswoman told FOX 12 its five Portland-area hospitals have been delaying some elective and non-urgent procedures now for a couple of weeks and expect to continue doing so as the surge in COVID-19 patients strains hospital resources.
Providence is also working to recruit retired caregivers to meet staffing needs as it ramps up COVID-19 treatment units.
Across the nation, hospital staffing levels are at critical lows in some areas as the pandemic rages, forcing healthcare providers to compete for nurses.
“Using temporary nurses has become increasingly expensive across the country, thankfully we’re not seeing that at PeaceHealth at this time,” Neville said. “We have been increasing the number of nursing staff we have available, so far, cross fingers, we haven’t had any difficulty recruiting them to us.”
If it’s not staffing in the Pacific Northwest, hospital bed capacity remains a real threat. In the Portland metro area and northern Oregon coastline, more than 90 percent of beds are full.
PeaceHealth will open a COVID-19 unit at its St. John Hospital in Longview. Neville said the unit will be up and running Thursday and will be able to house about 10 COVID-19 patients.
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