The good news is, it’s working.
Since mid-March, Oregon’s aggressive physical distancing and stay-at-home measures have prevented an estimated 70,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1,500 hospitalizations. But we’re not there yet. Every member of our community continues to have an important role to play in preventing the spread of the virus.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, if everyone continues to follow the guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19, the number of cases needing hospitalization will stay within current statewide hospital capacity. This would save many lives and enable doctors, nurses and other health professionals to provide the best possible care.
Last Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown announced plans to lift restrictions on hospitals and surgery centers for elective and non-emergency procedures. The plans include criteria for hospitals to ensure they can accommodate both post-surgery hospitalizations and an increase in COVID-19 patients, test widely for COVID-19, have enough personal protective equipment on hand and have strict infection control and visitation policies.
Samaritan is already meeting or exceeding many of these criteria. We understand that we will need to ramp up in a deliberate manner, in accordance with state guidelines, while rigorously maintaining the health and safety of patients, clinicians and staff.
We continue to do our part by reducing the number of people coming into our clinics and hospitals in person. In this way, we are reducing health risks for all of our patients and their families, as well as for our health care teams. We also have enhanced telemedicine capabilities to ensure patients get the care they need during this time. Our patients and clinicians have enthusiastically embraced the telehealth options, such as video visits. These tools will continue to offer convenient care options when the pandemic subsides. (More information about telehealth may be found at samhealth.org/Telehealth.)
Meanwhile, Samaritan has expanded testing criteria to include all patients with symptoms of coronavirus, with a clinician’s order, and we encourage anyone who has any cold or flu-like symptoms to contact their health care provider to find out whether they should get tested. We believe increased testing availability will further help reduce the spread of the virus and help our communities get a better sense of how the disease is spreading.
When the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, health care delivery might not look the same as it was before. With enhanced partnerships — such as those with our county and state health officials — and expanded telehealth options, we are confident in our continued ability to build healthier communities together.
We extend our deepest gratitude for everything our communities are doing. Thank you for staying home to save lives.
Robert Turngren, MD, is the chief medical officer for Samaritan Health Services. Adam Brady, MD, is board-certified in infectious disease and internal medicine and cares for patients at Samaritan Infectious Disease — Corvallis. Drs. Brady and Turngren are leading the Samaritan Health Services coronavirus task force, which is working to guide Samaritan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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