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St. Charles official defends COVID visitor policy after senior waiting outside sparks debate

(Update: Adding video, comments from Bend resident, St. Charles Emergency Department manager)

The concerns on both sides boil down to health and safety

BEND, Ore (KTVZ) -- A recent Facebook post of an elderly man waiting outside the St. Charles Bend Emergency Department due to COVID-19 visitor policies has stirred up some controversy.

The post was about an 85-year-old man with pneumonia who had to wait in the cold and rainy weather Monday, outside the St. Charles Bend Emergency Department, based on their COVID-19 protocols.

It has prompted concern among some in the community about whether the policy properly takes into account the coming winter weather and people's well-being.

The man's granddaughter said she fears that had he come alone in his current condition, he would have wet himself and potentially caught hypothermia. She said fortunately, her mom and daughter in-law put him in the car to wait.

The granddaughter told NewsChannel21 he was not permitted to wait inside because he didn't have results for a COVID-19 test. She claimed the treatment amounts to elder abuse and discrimination.

St. Charles Emergency Department Manager Michelle Brenholdt told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday that the Incident Command Disaster Response Policy has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic, to alleviate the potential for people contracting COVID-19 in the ED. She says the precaution they’re taking is to keep patients safe. 

The concerns on both sides however, boil down to health and safety.

One concerned woman said she called St. Charles Bend for clarification and learned that her 100-year-old father also would have to wait outside because of the protocol.

“Setting a 100-year-old person out in the winter, in Central Oregon, there’s no -- there’s no excuse for that. He could die." Bend resident Deidra Cherzan said.

Brenholdt said they're presently exploring more options to help with the influx of patients they have, to reduce the wait times outside. She explained how the process currently works.

"When a patient arrives at the Emergency Department, they first get screened at the door for COVID symptoms," she said. "If the patient shows symptoms of COVID, they are registered and asked to wait outside. If there are no symptoms of COVID, then those patients follow our normal process of waiting in our waiting room as we get (a room) ready for them."

"If they do have symptoms of COVID, then the nurse and the tech go out to the patient, assess them to make sure they're stable first. If they are really urgently ill, we want them in our Emergency Department without delay. But if there are no isolation rooms available, we ask them to wait in their car."

In the event that patients have to wait in their car, Brenholdt said they're asked to pull up near the Emergency Department, where the staff can check on them. If space in front of the department is full, she said they usually take a phone number to reach them.

In efforts to get people helped faster, Brenholdt said they've implemented rapid testing and are converting available rooms into isolation rooms, in addition to the 14 they already have. However, she said most of the rooms in the ED are typically filled by 10 AM, with the average patient staying for about three hours.

She expects the rapid testing to be a game-changer, since it will more quickly identify who has COVID. Right now, she said, some rooms are filled with people who end up not having COVID, in which case they could have gone to other areas of the department.

But this is not the first winter with the protocol in place, and some people in the community wonder why the protocol has become an issue now.

Brenholdt pointed out the last winter was different, because there were a lot of people who were afraid to come into the Emergency Department, causing their patient volume to fall by nearly 50%. That allowed people to receive help much faster.

As a resolution for the growing demand, some community members have suggested the idea of a heated outdoor tent as a helpful measure.

Brenholdt said they do use a heated tent, but they can't crowd everybody under it, because it increases the risk of exposure to COVID, since it's shared air space.

She admitted that finding a quick solution is a challenge, but encouraged people who want to go to the Emergency Department for a COVID test to instead go to an urgent care, family doctor, or use the rapid drive-thru test site.

"There will be more rooms available for sicker patients," Brenholdt said.

In an email response earlier this week to NewsChannel 21, a St. Charles spokeswoman outlined the precautionary measures the hospital takes to prioritize health for all patients:

  • Patients who are experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency requiring immediate treatment will be brought in and evaluated right away.
  • All patients are initially screened inside the ED. Those patients who have respiratory symptoms are asked to wait outside and undergo a rapid COVID test, with results in 10-15 minutes. If a patient’s COVID test is negative, they are brought inside to our ED waiting area. If their test is positive, we admit them to an isolation room, if one is available. If an isolation room is not available, the patient has the option of waiting outside in their car until they can be evaluated.
  • We acknowledge that waiting outside for any period of time is not ideal, but we must take every precaution to keep our patients safe. We are working on identifying additional indoor areas where COVID-positive patients can be isolated.
Author Profile Photo

Bola Gbadebo

Bola Gbadebo is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Bola here.



      1. Absolutely nothing to do with this situation. He did not have Covid, but was still made to wait outside. They could at least set up a tent with IR warmers if they are going to do this to people needing care.

      1. oregone,
        Are you one of the employees that quit your job because you refused to get a COVID vaccine, over ‘principle’?
        If you are…how’s that working for you?
        Just curious…and, I sincerely apologize if you aren’t the one.

    1. I believe it’s the only Hospital doing this. I think if the insurance policy holder isn’t allowed inside as a visitor to help their loved one, than that insurance should no be allowed to use and St. Charles eats the bill.

    2. Only an ignorant anti-vaxxer would say something that dumb.It’s a hospital full of dummies like You,many folks in there have comprised immune systems, that’s why they are there.They don’t need Typhoid Mary.s whining outside trying to come in.

  1. Yet, ALL of the people who are inside, that have been vaccinated could potentially have breakthrough COVID, Do they test everyone everyday? This makes no sense. If anything not having COVID, and being brought inside may put him at risk, even if he has been vaccinated. Unless everyone inside is being tested every day, and even then that is not foolproof, as their is a fairly high rate of false positives, and negatives. Good Greif. Nice picture though!

  2. Yes all should be vaccinated, you can blame the un-vaccinated for what is happening at St Charles. Sorry you and others do not understand that they are dragging this out.

    1. Completely untrue actually. You may want to take a look at the data coming from the highest vaccinated countries around the world. The vax does nothing to stop transmission rates.

    2. Dale, please explain how the unvaxxed are dragging this out? Do you believe that if we had 100% vaxx rate we would eradicate it? Answer is no. So, then would you blame the vaxxed? Remember Kate Brown said when we reached 70% vaxx rate we can go back to normal, we would achieve herd immunity? We as a state are over that. Guess what, we will hit 80% and nothing will change, except that you will need a booster to be considered fully vaxxed. Dale, how many boosters will. you take before you realize that you’ve been duped?

        1. Barney as a “media” person, please do some research. Ask the hard questions of St Charles and OHA. The Delta variant was named, along with several others, but the reality is there is NO test to know what “variant” someone has. In fact, if you ask a St Charles provider to test you for a variant you are told they do not have that testing. If you ask for an antibodies test, you will be told they have no such thing and if other places are doing it, it is inaccurate.
          Have you not wondered why just about every symptom ever felt for a head cold, virus, bacterial infection, etc is listed as Covid? It’s a blanket if you have any symptoms, you are presumed positive. If you don’t we test you and call you positive anyway.

          1. Please also do some research. Look up genomic sequencing used to identify variants and learn how it is different from the tests that detect the coronaviruses that cause COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) without identifying what variant they are. St Charles uses PCR and other tests that do not differentiate variants. It actually doesn’t matter if St Charles isn’t monitoring variants. The variants are being identified in labs all over the country and world with genomic sequencing. You don’t have to detect a variant in everyone, only a smaller sample to determine that Delta is the current predominant variant. It is interesting that you claim the hospital says that there’s no such thing as an antibodies test. How are we as a country and a world finding out that antibodies are waning in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people? An antibodies test would in many cases be inaccurate to detect if you have current COVID-19 vs. past infection. Maybe that is what St Charles means when they say that it is inaccurate as you claim that they say. Since my job has required me to look at patient charts at St Charles every week for the last 14 years, I can assure you that very few if any patients are being diagnosed with COVID-19 who do not have a positive COVID-19 test. Patient’s are being tested for all types of pathogens that cause respiratory illness including SARS-CoV-2, influenza, rhinovirus, and many others. The tests that St. Charles labs use can tell the difference between the pathogens. The hospital has and continues to treat patients with respiratory illnesses that were not caused by SARS-Cov-2 since the start of this pandemic so a theory that all patients with respiratory illness are being diagnose with COVID-19 doesn’t hold water. St Charles providers (and likely nearly all providers everywhere) are not diagnosing COVID-19 based on assumptions since it’s so easy to confirm whether the patients are positive or negative and specific to which pathogen in the lab.

            1. Please remember that this is all petulent hot air coming from failed trump kooks like gretch. She is not interested in solving any problems or pursuing contructive policies. For her its all about her, whining and “sticking it” to the educated, successful and affluent “libs”. This somehow seems to make failed, regressive, hillbillie trump kooks feel “free”.

              1. Educated, successful and affluent “libs”??? Thats like saying left wing brainwashed extremists, government subsidized cultural drags, properly oppressive Marxists who get bent outta shape by right wing “vernacular.”

      1. You Trump-supporting conservative anti-vaxxers make me laugh. You DO realize your guy lost and won’t be back, right? And as to your smoke-screen tactics, nobody who follows the science is saying that getting vaccinated will stop folks totally from getting COVID, but rather they will likely have a less severe experience.

        Oh, and for those of you who try to say that it’s your choice not to get vaccinated and that it’s nobody’s business, I say bull. I know someone who ended up getting COVID because they stubbornly refused to get vaccinated “cuz Free-dum/Murica”, and they got COVID. They were out for almost two months and their coworkers had to work extra shifts and longer hours to cover their work. So don’t try and say that your personal choice not to get vaccinated doesn’t affect anyone else–because if you get sick and can’t work, your coworkers will have to cover for you.

    1. “In the spirit of love and compassion”.

      Sister Catherine would not allow what is happening at St. Charles if she were still alive and running it. She simply would not be blinded by the propaganda and in turn look at patients and staff with true love and compassion. Not anymore. That place is scary as hell now.

      1. Non, so if it prevents transmission, why do vaxxed still get it? Also, if all the staff is vaxxed, why can’t the poor man be inside in a waiting room?

        1. Why are the two dumbest comments on here, posted by someone with a name including the word “Oregon” in them? It’s an insult to this state. Maybe you two should use states names like Florida, Mississippi, or Texas. Or maybe try to think of something original? I know… that requires thinking. Sorry about that.

            1. Were you one of the 1,000 people who showed up in Dallas Tuesday to see Robert and John F.Kennedy reinstate trump??? This was a major Q anon evnt!!! Anyway trump did win in the tiny, vacuous minds of the average trump kook. But darn the luck all 77 court cases so far have either been, thrown out, lost or produced more votes for President Biden!!!! Gee, I wonder why that is!!!! Soooooooooooo much losing with the big fat failed and fired orange snowflake!!!!

  3. I am sure this was for the 85 year old mans health and well being. In Central Oregon we have thousands of fully vaccinated untested people spreading COVID 19 around like Johnny Appleseed. Because they are fully vaccinated they have less noticeable symptoms meaning they are out and about at concerts, restaurants stores and even working at the hospital. These policies are a joke and make no sense.

  4. Hiding behind policies, is cowardice.
    maybe line up all the incoming patients by age and frailty?
    At family reunions we always let Grandpa through the food line first.
    it’s about respect, and earning that respect.
    Corporation run facilities can burn through the community like caustic soda.
    In the civilized countries no one is crapped upon outside the Health care facilities,
    and the visit is paid for by the taxes, not insurance demons.

  5. Like most posters, This is the definition of Elder Abuse and discrimination. Time for St Charles to WAKE UP. Those who are “vaccinated” are getting sick, are spreading Covid, and are as much at Risk as Unvaccinated. Shoving an ELDERLY MAN with PNEUMONIA outside to wait for a Covid test that the Vaccinated inside didn’t have to have…makes this policy Foolhearty at best Criminally Liable at worst.

    WAy to go. I predict we will have more death in the coming months from treatable illnesses that are going Undiagnosed because people no longer want to go to the doctor, urgent care, or hospital because it has taken on a Social Agenda that does not fit in America.

  6. I wonder if the person who wheeled him outside read the back of their badge to him, “I will put you out in the cold, in the spirit of love and compassion”.

  7. More and more I am hearing healthcare providers express shame working for St Charles. They don’t like the way they are being treated. They don’t like the way their coworkers are being treated. They don’t like the way their patients are being treated. Nurses especially like to work for an employer they can be proud of, an employer who supports healthcare providers in their mission of care and healing. I’m not sure what management is trying to accomplish but there has been a shift in focus and its creating a festering resentment –inside and out.

    1. Amen. I am also hearing from employees current and former that the “culture” is uncomfortable and many are looking for work elsewhere. The scary part is they are our ONLY option here in Central Oregon. If they are corrupt (Some of us know they are.) what options do Central Oregonians have for alternate care?

    2. St Charles used to be the best hospital in the state, we loved working there, patients were happy, we were proud of our hospital and our town. Now St Charles has abandoned Sister Catherine’s idea of love and compassion and instead adopted “generate large bills, grind out that money, and whip them into submission because there is no other option in Central Oregon for patients or health care workers”. Incredibly sad. St Charles has lost all vision of their true purpose

    1. Ha! I just learned of this phrase a couple weeks ago, I know I’m late I don’t usually follow the LOW IQ,they find me. Great Catchy phrase for the LOW IQ Nascar, Donny Dump crowd! Lol! You do learn something new everyday! LMAO! Pathetic at best! Ha!

      1. Catchy indeed, just ordered my hoody with it yesterday. Maybe you’ll see me around proudly wearing it. How bout you wear your “I love Biden” shirt and we’ll see who gets gets more nods. Your guy is sinking! Even in liberal Bend.

          1. It’s funny that you believe the “Trump culture suddenly sprouts righteous indignation.” In reality we don’t care what you say or others like you say. We heard the “tolerant” left call us and Trump all kinds of names over the years. You think “Donny Dump Crowd” gets under our skin…okay. Let me know when millions chant it, let me know they make a song about it and it’s at the top of iTunes. Lol – and Biden got 81 million votes. Nice try.

            1. I didn’t say “Trump culture suddenly sprouts righteous indignation”. I actually said the opposite but our resident moderator edited the post for civility at the expense of accuracy.

          1. And still came up with nothing! But the Mueller investigation began because of the false dossier. The real issue here is that you believed the dossier was the truth. And you probably still believe the lies.

    2. And acting like an 8-year-old using a code phrase in place of cuss words to get one over your parents, in this case the Libs, gives you an ego boost or just a giggle?

  8. St Chucks ER is an absolute joke. They did the same thing to me last winter
    when the temperature was below freezing.
    I’ve been dealing with health issues for almost two years, and I have been to the ER about 14 times, and admitted 4 times. I’ve been to both St.Chucks Bend, and St.Chucks Redmond.
    I don’t know why there is a difference but the Redmond ER used to be really good,
    unfortunately several months ago that started changing, and now they are very similar to
    the ER in Bend. This isn’t just my opinion but I’ve talked to others who have also noticed the change as well, and that includes my Dad, who was just in there last week.
    The care he received was negligent at best. He ended up going to the BMC urgent care
    in Redmond the next day because his symptoms were getting worse. The doctor at the
    urgent care examined him thoroughly, diagnosed the problem and got him started on meds.
    When my Dad told him about his visit to the ER, he could not believe how he was treated.
    CO desperately needs another hospital, and until we get one, St Chucks will continue
    to get worse…

      1. You lucked out. In all fairness, I have never had any problems with any
        of the nurses I have dealt with. They have been awesome, unfortunately
        I can’t say the same for a lot of the doctors.

    1. So… did you ‘do your research’ on all the medications and tests you and your father got, or did you trust the Doctor’s opinion and head straight over to Walgreens to fill all of your prescriptions? It’s ok, we already know, you can just admit it… you didn’t question anything, you just take every shot and pop every pill they tell you to because that’s how everyone does it… unless it’s the Covid vaccine and then ‘omgomgomg I have to do my research on facebook something about Nicki Minaj’s cousin in Trinidad omgomgomg….’.

      Also, I hope you and your father feel better soon and have complete recoveries. It sucks to not feel good.

      1. ” It’s ok, we already know, you can just admit it… you didn’t question anything ”

        Actually you are wrong. My dad did question the doctor, and he kept asking the doctor
        for explanations, but he finally gave up because he couldn’t get a straight answer.
        The doctor at the urgent care was totally different. He did a very thorough exam and
        he took the time to explain everything to him, including the meds that he prescribed,
        and he answered all of the questions that my dad asked him. If he hadn’t gone in for a second opinion, according to the urgent care doctor,he would have continued to worsen, and he would have ended up being admitted to the hospital…
        I do question everything, whether it’s a test,a procedure or a medication,
        and yes I have told them no before. If I get prescribed a new medication I always
        do my research on the medication before I start taking it because I don’t trust them.
        They can’t even get my medication list right, even though they ask every time you
        go in so they can update the info. My chart still shows medications that I took several years ago and stopped. The same medications that were supposed to be removed from
        my chart numerous times…

    2. I vote we let Summit Health take over the operation of our Hospitals. They do such a better job at making sure we are cared for properly. And treated as Human beings should be treated.

  9. What a joke, St. Chucks is. I was there yesterday, showed my card, and then went into a waiting room. Sat around for 1/2 hour or so, went out to the car to get more reading material, and when _ tried to get back in through the birthing entrance, no way. Seems as somewhere along the line I was supposed to get a GREEN band saying I was allowed inside. Went back through the FRONT line again and had to ASK for the band so they would let me in the backway. Right on the ball there St. Chucks, way to keep track of things. At least the gals at the other entrance knew their stuff. I did not notice anyone wearing scrubs with a wristband, maybe that is the way to show up in the first place, wear scrubs, have a cup of coffee in your hand, and waltz right on through.

    1. Employees are getting the same hassle as you. They have to wear a little sticker on their badge that proves they are safe to enter. It’s really stupid because the hospital already fired everybody who isn’t vaccinated. I guess they are afraid a disgruntled former employee will get sick, sneak in and sneeze on a patient.

  10. Oh the “compassion” of a blue state. Quiet day from the left on this article? Is it the results of nationwide elections have them down? All time COVID lows in Oregon, yet they continue to bow to Brown and claim “antivaxxers” the problem. There’s change coming. I sense people are waking up. Even the most left leaning Marxist has to be embarrassed at our “commander and chief” falling asleep in front of the world! The numbers speak! As for the vax and this poor gentleman: St. Charles has no shame, they treat patients and staff with contempt. From a family of a nurse who has been “administratively” let go, I say “let the public judge.” The vax is irrelevant at best, and more likely dangerous. I’m sure this gentleman would agree. COVID is a joke, grow up and live life!

  11. I spy with my little eye two more chairs where the unworthy of us will have to wait, and a hand sanitizer dispenser that appears to be blocking the entrance door (yo, joe sluka, is this the ER door, and is it locked??). Do we know if this gentleman is a Vet? Do we also know if St Chucks throws a blanket in your general direction in the parking lot, do you get a bill for it? In the immortal words of Chandler Bing, could the optics BE any worse? Certainly hope this man is getting medical attention from someone who gives a rip.

  12. I bet you I’m not worth as much as this guy could get if he started a “go fund me” over this. I’d contribute. However, at 85 he’s of a generation that doesn’t expect such things. This “treatment” is abhorrent! Central Oregon is sick of this! St. Charles is evil! I honestly feel for the unfortunate staff that have no choice but to continue working for them.

  13. St Charles has earned the nickname St Lucifers. They have NOTHING in common with the St they are named for. St Charles drove OUT corruption and made it his guiding mission to feed and take care of those sick and hungry during the 1576 famine. He personally went into debt helping others.
    Our St Charles deserves the name change to St Lucifer. They are following the darkness and no longer doing anything to honor the former namesake.

  14. WOW! If the workers are that scared at the hospital that this is how they treat someone who needs medical attention, then they should find other work. How pathetic and with this kind of fear it’s no wonder this country sold out. Heros? Frontline responders! Not even close. Your going to leave an old man outside with pneumonia because of your dumb ass fear! Tells me one or two things, you have no confidence in the vaccine or your not vaccinated.
    So which is it? What possible good reason would you have to not treat that old man? It’s unprofessional, it’s disgusting, and deplorable, in the real world without fear driven liberals, your asses would get fired, not for being unvaccinated but for being uncaring unprofessional and putting your own pathetic life before someone else’s, what the hell did you think you signed up for being a nurse or a doctor, it wasn’t to protect your life before someone else’s.
    What a bunch of soulless losers!

    1. You have no idea what you are getting on about. Putting this man outside is a policy mandate imposed by upper management. It has NOTHING to do with doctors and nurses who are also disgusted with this whole situation. You’re attacking the wrong people.

    2. Then you should write a letter to the administrator, Joe Stuka, because the workers are told the policy and have to follow it or be fired. If you work in healthcare and live in central Oregon St Charles is the only option. We need another hospital and some competition

  15. I gotta wonder Barney, and no disrespect necessarily intended: will you dig into something like this? These are the real costs of this “pandemic.” As one who’s spouse has “quit” 20 years of nursing due to this, I actually feel fot this gentleman. Will you follow up beyond, “it’s policy?” How about the 1100 positions now open at St. Chucks and counting? This smells like money for the top end. It’s not about a virus, they report that only to thier benefit. I bet this poor guy is now part of thier numbers. The inevitably of age will visit all of us who don’t die young; is this how you want our future to look? At 85 this guy has seen a lot, I bet he never expected this! Memento mori! It’s Latin, and we should all pay heed.

    1. This was an early look, the full report is being finished up now by the reporter. Will it answer all of your questions? Doubtful. There are people who think we can “make” folks tell us more than their policies allow. Or dig up the magic silver bullet or what have you. Rarely.

  16. St Charles has been an out of control dumpster fire for years now. Covid-19 is not an excuse. This has been going on for too long. The “management” are a joke. They walk around watching employees…sending useless emails…implementing horrible idea after horrible idea. No department can escape the “management ” issue. They are dumping money into all the wrong places. They avoid hiring internally in hopes of getting outsiders to follow their self-serving agenda. Patients Last..Money First should be printed on all their scrubs and swag!

      1. Awesome! Since they can’t seem to fix anything I am sure I could do a better job! Actually I am sure anyone outside of the current management could do a better job! Call it whatever you want just someone needs to clean house there! How about you Kuya? Or are you someone who needs to go?

        1. Hospital Hill Girl,

          I know others who work at SC and they say exactly what you said. One person who works for SC told me that if they got sick, “Do not take me to St. Charles.” It is not the doctors and nurses to blame for the problems. It is the money-driven administrators.

    1. you are absolutely correct. As a former employee I can honestly say that St. Chucks is always 1 major traffic accident away from being overwhelmed at any given time. Giving thier employees “sluka bucks” so they can spend it in their cafeteria is their answer lol

  17. Two points. First, this is not just a hospital policy. I had an 8:20 appointment at my doctor’s office Tuesday. I walked there, and it was about 35 degrees outside. They said that I had to wait outside in my car. I said, I walked here. Tough luck. New policy which they did not tell me about. I am 74 and had to wait outside for 15 minutes in my street clothes. Second point: KTVZ has a policy of not publishing the names of some accused of crimes. But, they publish the picture of this poor guy in a really vulnerable state. Did he give permission? Just does not seem right.

  18. My suggestion to avoid being kept outside in the cold when you possibly have covid symptoms….go to Urgent Care instead of the ER at the hospital….easy!

  19. So if the man came in a car with his daughter and granddaughter and the policy is, if it’s cold, for the patient to wait in a car near the ER, why did his family leave him outside in the first place? Photo op to prove a point?

  20. Our experience nursing at St. Charles and the treatment on the way out was abhorrent! Now they are just doubling down and inflicting more pain and hardships on patients as they are short staffed due to thier virtue signaling tactics trying to align with the left. We’ve not only left the hospital but are leaving this blue infected state.

    There’s better places out there folks, for patients, workers and liberty loving Americans. Let Oregon rot in the filth it has made of itself!

    1. Be sure to spell out your reason for leaving SC. Placing your distrust of medical science and your personal liberty over the welfare of patients, especially the immunocompromised, looks great on a caregiver’s resume. How do you justify earning a paycheck working in a field that dispenses care based on science you don’t trust enough to protect you and your patients?

  21. This isn’t as bad as in SLC. Sis-in-law started having COVID symptoms (couldn’t breathe, couldn’t smell, etc.) so she went to an urgent care; they told her that since she’s having a hard time breathing to go to the hospital ER. The ER told her that since she didn’t get the vaccine, they weren’t going to treat her and she should just go home. She asked if she could get the vaccine and they said she had to wait til January to get it. She said it was the worst experience of her life! I think very soon, hospitals will start enforcing this type of policy.

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