PORTLAND, Ore. — There are currently 206 Oregonians who are hospitalized for suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, less than half as many as there were in early April, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority.
But the recent spike in positive COVID tests, as well as the coming of flu season and colder weather that will drive people back indoors, could spell more hospitalizations ahead.
The coming weeks and months will tell. Meanwhile, unlike several other states, Oregon hospitals do not appear on the brink of a bed shortage. There are 174 intensive care beds available currently and 612 regular adult hospital beds statewide, nearly four times as many as are currently occupied by COVID patients.
Dr. Renee Edwards, chief medical officer at OHSU Hospital, said hospitals have laid the groundwork to prepare for a surge.
“One of the pieces of work OHSU did over the spring and summer was not only to understand how to handle a surge, but what triggers we needed to pay attention to, capacity triggers, that would cause us to slow something down to accommodate the incoming need,” Edwards said. “It’s that balance, how to slow down the things we can to manage capacity. So far, we have not reached a critical point.”
The situation in Oregon stands in contrast to Utah, where the hospital association has warned of the impending need to ration care, or El Paso, Texas, where beds are being set up at the city’s convention center.
In all, 3,134 Oregon patients have been hospitalized for COVID-19, or 7 percent of those testing positive, according to OHA.
As time has gone on, Oregon hospitals have developed a better understanding of how to manage the COVID-positive population, including where to place them and how to handle personal protective equipment, Edwards said.
In all, 56 Oregon community hospitals have treated COVID patients, and six have had no cases. Of those with COVID patients, 34 have had no more than 10.
The most COVID-19 patients that OHSU Hospital had on one day was 54 since the pandemic began. Salem Hospital had slightly more — 56 patients on a single day, the highest number recorded in the state. Salem Hospital’s median over time for COVID-19 patients is 24.5 (OHSU’s median is 11), also the state’s highest.
Salem Hospital’s “bed and staff resources have been more than sufficient to care for COVID patients” in the community, said Chief Nursing Officer Sarah Horn.
“Initially, many hospitalized COVID-19 patients were quite ill, but as new knowledge and treatments have become available, we have been able to treat a growing number in noncritical care settings,” she said.
OHSU has treated COVID patients from all over Oregon, as well as from out of state, as it is one of the few health centers with an ECMO life support machine.
The chief medical officers from hospitals in the Portland region speak with one another three days a week and the CMOs statewide get on a call together every other week to check on resources and bed capacity, Edwards said.
“We’re constantly checking on each other’s capacity, such as how many ICU beds, so we all know,” Edwards said. “Even though we’re seeing cases rise, there is nothing to this point that has stretched our capacity. Everyone’s paying attention. Right now, we feel confident in the planning we created to manage an influx of patients.”
Click on the gallery link below to see the 15 Oregon hospitals that have had the highest daily count of patients with COVID-19.
Brandon Sawyer contributed to this report.
The Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.