Hundreds of Contract Health Workers Deployed to Oregon Hospital amid Delta Surge

A flood of contract nurses, paramedics and other relief workers are headed to the state’s hardest-hit hospitals amid a delta-fueled surge of coronavirus patients that has pushed Oregon’s health care system to the breaking point, Governor Kate Brown announced Wednesday.

The workers — up to 500 total — come courtesy a newly signed state contract with Jogan Health Solutions, which will deploy hospital crisis teams to central and southern Oregon, which are seeing some of the highest case rates per capita in the country, as well as long-term care facilities statewide.

Separately, the state has also contracted with AMN Healthcare for at least 60 additional nurse and clinical positions. The additional personnel will bolster medical staff capacity to help manage hospitalizations that Brown said have jumped more than 990% since July 9.

“The deployment of crisis response teams should provide some welcome relief to our hospitals, particularly in central and southern Oregon, that are overwhelmed given the recent surge in hospitalizations among mostly unvaccinated individuals,” Brown said in a release.

“The hospital crisis we are facing isn’t just about beds — it’s about having enough trained health care professionals to treat patients. I am so pleased that we will be able to provide these resources to help our hospitals and long-term care facilities meet increased demand and can continue to provide vital health care to Oregonians.”

Oregon on Tuesday crossed the threshold of 1,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients for the first time in the pandemic, which Brown hailed on Twitter as “terrifying milestone.”

“Delta is ripping through communities around the state and across the country,” Brown said. “Flooding hospitals and stretching thin our nurses and health care staff as they work to treat patients, hitting hard our communities with low vaccination rates. This is not a drill.”

Leaders from Providence, Legacy, Kaiser and OHSU health care systems held a joint press conference Wednesday afternoon, saying their front-line workers are “stretched the breaking point” amid the delta surge.

Some healthcare systems have had to delay non-emergency surgeries to adequately staff their hospitals.

“We’ve gathered today to share a collective sense of urgency around the unprecedented spread of the Delta variant,” said Dr. Seth Podolsky, Chief Medical Officer at Legacy Health. “We plead with you in our communities to understand that delta is different.”

Two intensive care nurses also shared personal and, at times, emotional testimony about their experiences during this latest surge — which has hospitalized almost twice as many Covid-19 patients as during the peak of the pandemic in 2020.

“The war has changed,” registered nurse Levi Cole said. “The enemy has gotten meaner, and society as a whole has let its guard down. And we’re all pretty overwhelmed and pretty exhausted and are running out of the available will and faith in society to do its part so that we can help them.”

Hospital officials said the current surge has not yet reached its peak and grimly predicted that hard decisions lie ahead. The state on Wednesday reported nearly 2,800 new cases — 129 of them in Clackamas County — and 20 Covid-related deaths.

Under the state’s contract with Jogan, hospital crisis response teams will head the St. Charles Health System in Bend and Redmond areas, and to Asante hospitals in Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass, as well as Providence-Medford Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg.

The hospital crisis response 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. These teams will also be ready to move to other hospitals if needed.

“This is a much-needed infusion of qualified medical personnel that can help us get through this critical time in the Covid-19 pandemic,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen.

Long-term care crisis response teams — a total of 10 — will each be made up of three registered nurses and five certified nursing assistants and will be sent to facilities around the state to build capacity so patients can be discharged.

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