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St. Charles CEO: Lab has sent out only about 900 COVID-19 tests

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

'Far too few to know extent of virus,' Joe Sluka says

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- St. Charles Health System President and CEO Joe Sluka issued another message to the community Monday, saying social distancing and other steps are working to curb the spread of COVID-19 but that far too few tests are being performed and key supplies remain limited.

Here's his message:


Since my last message went out a week ago, hundreds of you have shared your words of thanks, encouragement and support. It means more than I can say that you find our information helpful during this time when we all must come together to face the common threat of COVID-19.

Your words and actions continue to give me hope that we will come through this together and we’ll be stronger as a community when we reach the other side.

Our team has noticed some trends in the questions we receive – through our telephone hotline, email responses, social media posts and more. Here are some of the themes and the best answers we have as of today.


Access to widespread testing – for anyone who has symptoms or has been exposed to COVID-19 – would greatly help us identify and isolate potential patients in an effort to stop the spread. Unfortunately, from the beginning of this crisis we have faced a nationwide shortage of testing supplies and barriers in the turnaround time for test results.

Our team is working on this issue every day. Early on, our suppliers put us on an “allotment” of test swabs – meaning no matter how many we order, they will only provide us a certain, smaller number in an effort to share supply across the country. The allotment changes depending on the available supply. 

Now that new testing options are being approved by the FDA, we’ve had regular contact with our state and federal legislators along with the manufacturers in an effort to secure these new types of tests for Central Oregon. So far, most of the testing supply is going to areas of the country that are hardest-hit by the COVID-19 outbreak including New York, Washington, California and Louisiana.

To date, the St. Charles Laboratory has sent out only 907 tests for COVID-19 – far too few to know the true extent of the virus in our communities. Because we believe that testing more people is a critical component of this fight, we will continue to push this issue until it is resolved.


Even before we had any cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, our Supply Chain team was actively monitoring the worldwide shortage of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for our caregivers. More than 50% of the world’s surgical masks are produced in Chinese factories that were shut down for nearly two months at the beginning of the outbreak. We knew that even if COVID-19 never reached us, we would still face a PPE crisis.

Our teams moved quickly to address the problem early on. We purchased our entire allocation of supplies and encouraged our staff to reserve as much supply as possible while still staying safe. We monitor the rate at which we go through supplies based on our number of patients. We know exactly how many days of every type of PPE we have on hand.

Because of ongoing turmoil in the worldwide mask market, the valiant efforts made every day by our Supply Chain team to secure more PPE do not always yield results. This is a frustration shared by our fellow hospitals throughout the state.

In the meantime, we have embraced the innovative spirit of our Central Oregon family. Thousands of masks have been donated – cloth masks, plastic face shields, respirators and more. Your generosity continues to help us stay safe. Thank you.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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