A month after Oregon's first COVID-19 case was confirmed, state medical officials say the worst of the pandemic is still to come.
Cases are expected to rise in Oregon over the next two weeks with deaths tapering down into June, according to projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Though the peak is likely to be smaller than originally projected, putting less pressure on hospitals than first feared, those in rural areas are struggling with the focus on COVID-19 patients that's caused the cancelation of profitable procedures.
In a sharply worded letter to Oregon Health Authority officials obtained by The Lund Report, Sen. Brian Boquist sounded the alarm on Friday about the plight of rural hospitals and providers.
"OHA and the governor have been told for two weeks rural providers, clinics and hospitals are in complete freefall with massive layoffs operating a half or less capacity," Boquist, R-Dallas, said in the email to the state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger and Dr. Dana Hargunani, chief medical officer of the authority.
Boquist, a member of the joint legislative COVID-19 committee, said hospitals are not getting the support or information from OHA that they need to prepare for pandemic and the sudden loss of revenue.
All Oregon hospitals have been affected by the pandemic, canceling lucrative non-urgent procedures under order by Gov. Kate Brown. Hospital revenues have dropped between 40% and 60% and more help is needed so hospitals can stay open, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems said in a letter on Monday to Brown."At a time of significant community need, hospitals are having to make very difficult decisions about how to keep their doors open, maintain services and retain staff," said the letter, signed by the association's CEO Becky Hultberg; Joe Sluka, CEO of the St. Charles Health System; and Charlie Tveit, CEO of Lake District Hospital in rural southern Oregon. "Hospitals are having to wrestle with how to maintain a workforce when the facility does not have work for staff to do or revenue coming in to maintain their employment."
This Lund Report story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.
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