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State creates eight COVID-19 recovery units

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune The state has created eight COVID-19 recovery units around the Oregon, including five that can administer lab-made antibodies to patients to fight COVID-19 infection.
Jackson County unit helps ease strain on hospitals

The state of Oregon has created eight new COVID-19 recovery units, including one in Jackson County, to help ease the strain on nursing homes and overloaded hospitals.

The state has contracted with Avamere at Three Fountains nursing home in Medford to provide 30 beds for COVID-19 patients.

The Avamere COVID-19 recovery unit launched Aug. 27 with 26 patients. Of those, 16 came from Asante and Providence hospitals and 10 came from other nursing homes, Asante officials said.

Statewide, the recovery units are in nursing homes that can take care of COVID-19 patients in dedicated areas separate from other residents, the Oregon Department of Human Services said.

The other new COVID-19 recovery units are in Roseburg, Eugene, Bend, Lake Oswego and Tigard, plus two units in Salem.

Avamere at Three Fountains in Medford is among five new COVID-19 recovery units in the state that are also providing monoclonal antibody treatments.

The lab-made antibodies help prevent severe illness and hospitalization in people with COVID-19. The antibodies can be used in people who aren’t vaccinated against the virus, as well as those who did get vaccinated but had breakthrough COVID-19 cases.

Throughout the pandemic, hospitals in Jackson and Josephine counties have struggled to find beds for patients who’ve improved enough to leave the hospital, but still need follow-up care as they recover. The discharge problem affects both COVID-19 patients and patients with other health problems.

When COVID-19 cases started surging this summer, a flood of new patients, as well as people lingering in hospital beds filled Rogue Valley hospitals to overflowing.

At the worst point, Asante had more than 60 patients who were ready to leave the hospital but couldn’t find openings in rehabilitation facilities. That number continues to fluctuate, but has been in the low 40s lately, Asante officials said this week.

Asante said the 30 new COVID-19 recovery beds at the Avamere nursing home will help.

However, the community needs at least 70 additional nursing home beds for discharged patients — including beds for people with mental health issues or dementia, plus COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients, hospital officials said.

Back when COVID-19 cases were high during the winter, the state had contracts for seven COVID-19 recovery units that served more than 1,300 Oregonians, state officials said.

COVID-19 cases waned in the spring, then shot up in July, August and September. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Jackson and Josephine counties peaked in early September, with more than double the number of people hospitalized compared to during the winter surge.

“Re-establishing a statewide network of COVID-19 recovery units is essential to the state’s effort to best use available care resources during the current surge in COVID-19 cases,” said Mike McCormick, interim director of the Oregon Department of Human Services Office of Aging and People with Disabilities.

He said care providers of all types are facing staffing shortages.

The COVID-19 recovery units can be used to help other nursing homes that can’t create their own separate COVID-19 units due to a lack of staffing, state officials said.

Patients who don’t need hospital or nursing home-level care, but who do need to be isolated from their family or a group living situation because of COVID-19 can also use the recovery units, officials said.

Emergency department patients, for example, could qualify for the program if they don’t need to be admitted into the hospital but still need to isolate and get supportive care, Asante officials said.

The state previously contracted with Hearthstone Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Medford to provide up to 45 beds for non-COVID-19 patients who are ready to be discharged from hospitals but need follow-up care. The state has expanded that contract to 60 beds, state officials said.

The number of non-COVID-19 patients using those contracted beds currently numbers in the mid-50s, state officials said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.