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St. Charles CEO’s message: ‘The fight is just beginning’

St. Charles President CEO Joe Sluka
St. Charles Health System President and CEO Joe Sluka

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- St. Charles Health System President and CEO Joe Sluka offered an update on COVID-19 to the community on Monday, again stressing the key role staying home can bring and urging Central Oregonians to stay the course.

Here's the full text of Sluka's update:

Our numbers are starting to grow. Every day we are seeing more and more cases of our fellow Central Oregonians infected with COVID-19. I know many of you are heeding the call to STAY AT HOME and I want to personally thank you.

And yet there are those that are continuing to gather, have block parties and put themselves and others at risk. Why? So we can prove that a virus will not control how we live our lives, because it won’t happen here. Well it’s happening here, and it is infecting our neighbors, friends and family.

This is a deadly disease. If you won’t stay home for me, please stay home for the people in your own life that you love. Stay home for your wife, husband, children and grandparents. Stay home for your doctors, nurses, environmental services caregivers, admitting caregivers, the police, firefighters, emergency medical responders, the postal workers, delivery drivers, gas station attendants, grocery store workers and all of those who are essential to keeping our society running and keep us safe.

As I write to you today, the United States has the most cases of COVID-19 in the world and growing. It is not a surprise that we ended up in this place when you consider the exponential growth behind a pandemic.

In fact it is just beginning.

At St. Charles, it feels like every day is a numbers game – how many new cases, how many hospitalized and how many recuperating at home. How do today’s numbers translate to what’s to come? Will we have enough ICU beds, ventilators, masks and staff to care for the inevitable influx of patients?

The answers will be NO if we don’t heed the call to STAY AT HOME.

What we know now is that on a normal, non-pandemic day we have 31 ICU beds and 58 ventilators throughout our four hospitals. With 23 positive COVID-19 patients in Deschutes County currently and seven of them hospitalized, you can see how it wouldn’t take much to push us over the baseline. If those 23 people infect two-to-three people each, we could easily already be on our way to being overwhelmed.

That’s why the message to stay home continues to be so important. It may feel like you are doing nothing and that it doesn’t matter because you don’t personally know anyone who is sick.

In reality, for every personal interaction you avoid, you are actively saving lives.

All of this is incredibly hard and outside our norm. Humans are social creatures and interacting with others is an important part of our mental and physical well-being.

Which is why although we are scared and working tirelessly to prepare, we are also so inspired to see the ways people are rising up to help each other. Literally thousands of our community members have reached out with messages of support, with donations of hand-sewn masks and with innovative ideas to help us with critical supply shortages. Stacks of pizzas have been delivered to our nurses along with messages of love and admiration. An entire community of people with 3D printers are now making masks and face shields to protect us. 

So today I would like to humbly say thank you.

First, thank you to all of our caregivers who keep showing up to care for our community. Thank you to the grocery store clerks, postal workers, delivery drivers, gas station attendants, EMTs, firefighters, police officers and more. You are on the frontlines and we salute you.

But also thank you to those of you who are heeding the call and staying home. You are a critical member of the St. Charles team. We can and will get through this together and we will be a stronger community for it. We will always remember how you joined us in the fight and we will be forever grateful.


P.S. Below is a photo of some extraordinary humans I hope you never have to meet in person. These are the nurses of our Bend Emergency Department, the only Level II Trauma Center east of the Cascades. They’re tough as nails and always ready to take on anything that comes through the door. We’re so grateful they come to work everyday to care for our community. Please stay home for them.

Article Topic Follows: Health

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