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St. Charles Bend adding new procedures daily to fight COVID-19

Emergency Department medical director talks of stressful situations

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Nearly every day, St. Charles Bend is adding new procedures to help fight the new coronavirus, according to Gillian Salton, the hospital Emergency Department's medical director.  

The hospital has split its emergency room into two sections, one for respiratory illnesses and one for non-respiratory illnesses. Patients are also now screened in the parking lot before entering the facility.

The hospital recently adopted a new way of treating heart attacks. Before the outbreak, a doctor would place a stent in a patient’s artery.  Now, in order to reduce contact between doctors and patients, heart attack patients are given medication that does the same thing a stent would.

Gllian Salton is in charge of all of the hospital’s emergency procedures and is on the clock almost 24-7.

"It's been stressful, right,” Salton said. “We are dealing with a new disease that we don't really know much about. We have a lot of uncertainty about many aspects. not only regarding the clinical part of the illness but what is coming. How many of our friends, neighbors and community members are going to be ill with it."

The emergency room is still seeing its usual  emergencies, like heart attacks and appendicitis, but they are seeing fewer trauma patients, something Salton attributes to the stay-home order.

"Our community is doing a really good job following the governor's order to stay home," Salton said. "And so overall, we are actually a little bit less busy on sheer volume than we normally would be."

St. Charles continues to fight a mask shortage, like many facilities around the state and country.

Medical staff at the Bend hospital are trying their best to preserve the life of their masks, but it can be a challenge.

Salton is advising people in Central Oregon to not wear N-95 masks specifically, because they will not protect you outside during encounters with strangers. Those masks should be reserved for medical professionals that administer face-to-face health care.

“Even more important than any sort of mask, if people can wash their hands,” Salton said. “It sounds like first-grade advice, but really that is the key to not spreading this. It’s not wearing a mask -- its washing your hands.”

Family Choice Urgent Care in Bend has also seen a decrease in the number of its patients it has been treating recently. Terri Mucha, the clinic’s owner, said the clinic will continue to employ its employees, in case of an emergency.

The facility has already administered about 15 COVID-19 tests, with two of those coming back positive. Both positive tests were from people visiting from out of Deschutes County, one from Portland and one from Texas.

The clinic has taken a number of steps to help limit the transmission of the coronavirus.

“We rearranged our lobby so that no sick person is within six feet of another person,” Mucha said.  “We want to make sure our front desk staff is safe, so nobody gets checked in within six feet, and we have made it so that we will meet the patient at the car. They can register in their car, and they can stay in their car, and we can come out to them and treat them.” 

Despite the drop-off in patient numbers the clinic still sees patients, mostly for abdominal pain or viral illnesses besides the coronavirus.

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Jordan Williams

Jordan Williams is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jordan here.


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