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ATRMC leaders speak to city officials: We need your support

Clinicians are taking their case to the public to spread awareness of the COVID crisis and encourage vaccination.

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ATRMC Vice President of Nursing Laura Magstadt spoke before the Grants Pass City Council.

Asante leaders have been reaching out to the community in recent days to help the public understand how dire conditions are in Asante hospitals due to the current COVID-19 surge, and to encourage vaccination as a way to slow the spread.

Southern Oregon has been especially hard hit by the delta variant, and Josephine County now has one of the highest infection rates in the state, with 361 new cases last Tuesday alone. At 52%, the county’s vaccination rate lags far behind Oregon’s 71% rate.

In an appearance before the Grants Pass City Council on Tuesday, leaders from Asante Three Rivers painted a stark picture of the hospital’s COVID burden.

“About 50% of our inpatient beds are filled with patients who have COVID disease,” said Laura Magstadt, vice president of Nursing for ATRMC. “Our ICU is now 100% a COVID hot zone. That unit is full. One hundred percent of the patients in our ICU are unvaccinated. The enormity of the volume of patients we’re seeing is unprecedented.”

ATRMC is licensed for 125 beds but was granted emergency authorization to expand its bed count.

The ATRMC contingent also included CEO Win Howard; general surgeon Megan Frost, MD; hospitalist Nicole Cowley, DO; Emergency Department medical director Chris David, MD; pediatrician Steve Marshak, DO, and colorectal surgeon Scott Nelson, DO.

Dr. Frost provided perspective on the ripple effects of the current outbreak.

“Last week was one of the hardest weeks of my career. I called seven patients with cancer to cancel their cases,” she said. “When you hear we’re canceling elective cases, these aren’t hernia repairs or hip surgeries. We’re canceling people’s cancer care. In Medford they’re canceling people who need open heart surgery.”

In her dual role as a public health expert, Dr. Frost explained the delta variant’s aggressive spread and why testing is so important. Under the original COVID strain, one infected person might infect two others. With the delta variant, one infected person could spread the disease to eight others. If those people don’t get tested, she explained, the transmission is compounded.

Dr. Nelson noted that a recent model by Oregon Health & Science University estimates that the surge will continue to worsen until it peaks in early to mid-September.

“Vaccination is our best and most protective way to help our community,” he said. “I know we live in an independent place, but we implore your city to continue to promote vaccination, followed by masking and social distancing.”

ATRMC’s Intensive Care Unit is fully occupied by COVID-positive patients.

The council appearance was part of a broader push by Asante to keep the public informed of the effects the COVID surge is having on health care systems and the community. Asante executives and clinical leaders have been interviewed by local and national outlets, including The Washington Post, and Asante has granted limited access inside hospitals to some local news outlets to help illustrate the severity of the crisis.

Those interested can watch the entire 30-minute Grants Pass City Council presentation online. ATRMC leaders also spoke before the Josephine County Board of Commissioners.

If you work in patient care and would like to share your story, email [email protected].

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