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'Crisis teams' headed to Southern Oregon hospitals

Governor Kate Brown’s office will deploy hundreds of nurses, respiratory therapists and paramedics to help hospitals hard-hit by COVID-19, including in Southern Oregon. File photo courtesy of Providence.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon will deploy “crisis teams” of hundreds of nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics and nursing assistants to regions of the state hardest hit by a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations that have stretched hospitals to the limit, Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday.

The state has finalized a contract with a medical staffing company that will send up to 500 health care providers to central and southern Oregon, where hospitals have been slammed by a surge in coronavirus patients, most of them unvaccinated. Smaller teams will also head to long-term care facilities around the state.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 990% in Oregon since July 9, according to health officials.

The personnel from Jogan Health Systems will head to Bend, Redmond, Medford, Ashland, Grants Pass and Roseburg and can move as conditions required, Brown said. The plan also calls for 60 additional nurses and clinical staff from provider AMN Healthcare, but plans for where those medical workers will be have not been finalized.

“The deployment of crisis response teams should provide some welcome relief to our hospitals,” Brown said. “The hospital crisis we are facing isn’t just about beds — it’s about having enough trained health care professionals to treat patients."

Under the contract, response teams will head to central Oregon to support the St. Charles Health System in Bend and Redmond areas, and to southern Oregon to support Asante hospitals in Medford, Ashland, and Grants Pass, as well as Providence-Medford Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.

The teams will be supported by up to 300 registered nurses in medical-surgical, emergency departments, and critical care; 20 paramedics; 61 certified nursing assistants; 34 respiratory therapists; and five medical technicians, according to a statement.

In addition, 10 emergency teams will head to long-term care facilities around the state. They will be made up of three registered nurses and five certified nursing assistants.

Oregon is one of a handful of states with an indoor mask mandate in effect and was the first on Tuesday to reinstitute a statewide mask requirement for outdoor public areas where people are close together.

Coronavirus cases, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant first detected in India, have overwhelmed hospitals in the Pacific Northwest state over the past month. On Tuesday, Brown said 1,000 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized, beating the record set the previous day of 937 people.

The governor has also instituted a vaccine mandate for staff and volunteers in K-12 schools, a mask mandate in schools and a requirement that health care workers and state employees be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

There were fewer than 50 intensive care unit beds available statewide this week. Many hospitals have canceled elective surgeries, and some patients are housed in hallways instead of rooms.

In addition to the medical crisis teams announced Wednesday, Brown has dispatched about 1,500 National Guard troops to hospitals around the state to help with logistics and nonmedical tasks.