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No vacancy: Severe flu has St. Charles hospitals full


(Update: New tower, ICU set to open May 29)

A rise in a severe form of flu has left St. Charles Health System’s hospitals at capacity and having to keep some patients waiting in hallways for treatment, divert some to other locations and cancel some elective surgeries, officials said Wednesday.

A St. Charles Bend Emergency Department doctor said along with the flu, weather-related incidents, such as people falling off roofs or being hit by heavy ice, have the hospital packed with patients.

It’s become so busy this week, patients are waiting for treatment in hallways or the ER, instead of quiet rooms upstairs.

“The (flu) strain this year has kind of morphed into what we consider a more virulent or stronger kind of a strain.” said Dr. William Reed, chief of emergency medicine at St. Charles Bend.

“People are a lot more ill than they typically would be,” Reed said. “They have oxygen requirements, so they can’t go home. And they need oxygen, so they’ve got to stay at the hospital.”

Reed noted it’s not just an issue in Bend or Central Oregon but regionally, as many hospitals in the Portland area, as well as Washington and Idaho also are full.

If you find yourself sick or injured, Reed asks you to consider whether it’s a true emergency, or an urgent need.

If not an emergency, the doctor suggests you call your primary care physician or visit an urgent care clinic.

The current space crunch coincidentally comes just as the hospital prepares for a planned May 19 opening of its new, $66 million patient tower. It will include a 24-bed intensive care unit and a 28-bed “progressive care” unit, for those not quite ready to move from the ICU to a regular room, as well as 20,000 square feet of “shell space” for future needs.

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