Nearly 15 months into this pandemic, our health system is facing a crisis.

Our hospitals are full, thanks to a surge of COVID-19 patients and an influx of people who are sick because their care has been delayed for a variety of reasons over the past year. At the same time, history tells us to expect a significant spike in trauma patients during the upcoming holiday weekend.

We have canceled surgeries, transferred patients to other hospitals and expanded patient care into spaces normally used for other things. We've brought in emergency nurses and requested more help from the state. And still, we are concerned that if someone comes in on Saturday with a severe injury or suffering from a heart attack, we may not have space to admit them to the hospital. All our beds are full. We are treating patients on gurneys in the hallways. Today, we have 15 people in the Emergency Department who are waiting for a bed to open up.

There is a line out the door at your local hospital, and it's likely to get longer.

We really need your help:

• If you haven't yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, you should continue to wear a mask and practice physical distancing, no matter what federal or state regulatory agencies have said. They are reacting to what's happening elsewhere. Here in Central Oregon, the pandemic is not over. COVID-19 is spreading rapidly and it's making younger people very sick. If you are unvaccinated, it is important for your health and safety that you distance and wear a mask. (Also, please get vaccinated. It's safe and effective. Of the 500+ COVID-19 patients at St. Charles since March 1, about 98% of them have not been fully vaccinated.)

• If you are vaccinated against COVID-19, please discuss with your unvaccinated friends and family the continued importance of masking and physical distancing, and encourage them to get vaccinated as soon as possible. At this point, you - a trusted friend or family member - is probably our best bet at convincing people to get the vaccine.

Everyone: Be smart and be safe this weekend. Minimize risk. Avoid activities that could potentially cause injury. Skip the ATV ride or the ambitious hike and enjoy the holiday close to home. I assure you, now is not the time to get hurt and have to come visit us.

• If you have an emergency, of course, do not delay care. You should still come to St. Charles, and we will do everything we can to take care of you.

On Thursday, Debbie Robinson, our chief nursing officer in Bend, said we are currently the busiest we've ever been in her time with the organization. She has worked for St. Charles for 26 years.

Again, we need your help. We appreciate anything you can do to try to ease the pressure on the health system.


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