Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Salem Hospital begins postponing some surgeries

2 months ago

Data digest: Covid by the numbers for Aug. 20, 2021

Salem Hospital on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

With Covid cases and hospitalizations climbing in Oregon, Salem Reporter is keeping you informed of the latest numbers. Here’s our report for Friday, Aug. 20. 

New Covid cases reported in Marion County: 164

New Covid cases reported in Polk County: 34

Total Salem Hospital patients with Covid: 88 as of Friday morning, an increase of five from Thursday, and an all-time pandemic record. Of those, 20 are in the intensive care unit, and 15 are on ventilators. Seventy-eight of those in the hospital are not vaccinated against Covid.

Total Salem Hospital bed occupancy: 472 of 494 licensed beds in use

Total people hospitalized with Covid in Region 2 (Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties): 138, an increase of two from Thursday. Of those, 32 are in the intensive care unit and 16 are on ventilators.

Total Region 2 hospital bed occupancy: 88 of 95 staffed ICU beds and 666 of 705 non-ICU beds in use

New Covid deaths reported: 19 in Oregon, no Marion County residents. A 96-year-old man from Polk County who tested positive for Covid on Aug. 1 died on Aug. 18 at Salem Hospital. Presence of underlying conditions is being confirmed.

New Covid vaccines in Oregon: 4,051 new Covid vaccine doses administered on Aug. 19, including at least 2,650 first doses 

Source: Oregon Health Authority, Salem Health

-Rachel Alexander

2 months ago

Cherriots warns that staffing shortage could cause occasional schedule disruptions

Cherriots buses may miss a stop from time to time as the agency deals with vacant jobs and absent employees. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Like other employers, Cherriots is out looking for help to keep the Salem area’s transit system running.

For the moment, the transit operation has just enough people on staff to keep the buses rolling.

But it’s close, according to Patricia Feeny, Cherriots communication manager.

An unexpected absence in the days ahead could result in a bit of a delay along any particular route, she said. On a route with 15-minute service, for instance, riders might notice one scheduled bus doesn’t appear.

“We’re struggling a little bit,” she said.

She said no route is at risk yet of completely losing service.

“We will be operating at full service for the week of Aug. 22 with the possibility of some trips being missed due to staffing shortages,” she said.

On Friday, Cherriots had 12 employees out related to Covid. Other employees have been promoted, and the system has openings for three bus operators and two supervisors.

“Our door is always open for operators,” Feeny said.

A class of eight operators is finishing training and should be available for duty in about two weeks, Feeny said.

The transit district also is hiring for maintenance and customer service jobs. Jobs are posted on its website.

Across the U.S., transit systems are struggling to hire fast enough to sustain service.

Meantime, the Salem system continues to require masking for its drivers and passengers. Public transit was one of the few sectors that weren’t relieved of masking orders when Gov. Kate Brown lifted her statewide mandate. Federal regulators kept in place the rule in public transportation.

“We’re very pro-mask,” Feeny said.

She said most passengers readily comply, and the transit system provides masks to those who need them.

“You can’t get on the bus without one,” she said.

-Les Zaitz

2 months ago

Salem Hospital begins postponing some surgeries to handle influx of Covid patients

Salem Hospital on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Twenty scheduled surgeries at Salem Hospital are being canceled as the region's largest medical provider continues to see a surge in Covid patients that has left few beds available.

"Multiple factors are considered before recommending cancellation as Salem Health is working to mitigate the damaging effects of delayed care," the hospital said in a statement.

The hospital announced the cancellations Thursday, saying it was one of several steps hospital leaders are taking to manage an unprecedented high volume of patients. As of Thursday morning, the hospital reported 83 patients with Covid, tying a pandemic record set Aug. 14, and 477 of 494 licensed beds occupied.

"The current surge of COVID inpatients is serious and dangerous, more than what we have seen at any point in the pandemic. The situation threatens basic health care infrastructure that Oregonians depend on, most importantly the ability to access emergency services and high-acuity care when needed," the hospital said in a statement Thursday.

Though the surgeries being postponed are considered "elective," the term is something of a misnomer, said Dr. Marty Johnson, a pulmonologist who works in Salem Hospital's intensive care unit.

Health care providers consider which surgeries are less urgent when deciding what to reschedule, but all scheduled surgeries are necessary for patients.

“You don’t get surgery unless you need it," Johnson said.

Johnson said exampled of procedures that might be postponed include hip surgeries for patients in severe pain or hernia repairs.

“That person’s going to continue to live with pain and disability and decreased function status, but it's not an immediate, life-threatening surgery," Johnson said.

Hospitals around Oregon canceled or postponed most elective surgeries in the spring of 2020 to conserve scarce masks and protective equipment for treating Covid patients.

Salem Hospital has also hired traveling medical employees ad requested Oregon National Guard assistance for staffing, the statement said. During a Thursday news conference, Pat Allen, Oregon Health Authority Director said hospitals in Marion County would be among those to receive National Guard help in a second wave of deployments, but did not specify timing. An initial wave sent 500 guard members to overrun hospitals in southern and central Oregon starting Friday.

-Rachel Alexander