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Douglas County Commissioners Issue Letter to the Community

11:58 PM · Aug 12, 2021

Dear Douglas County Citizens, The Douglas County Board of Commissioners would like to express their continued support and appreciation to CHI – Mercy Medical Center and all of their staff for the incredible job they have done in caring for the medical needs of our community during the current health care crisis. Mercy, who is the main hospital hub for Douglas County, has been heavily impacted, and continues to be heavily impacted by the latest surge of local coronavirus cases. Mercy released a statement today, with a plea to the community for support, understanding and cooperation as they work hard to manage resources, patient care and accessibility to medical services. We encourage everyone to join us in supporting their efforts and in working together, so we can prevent any additional unnecessary interruptions to the medical needs of our community in the coming days and weeks. Here is a copy of Mercy’s statement from today, Thursday, August 12, 2021: "Mercy is operating at near capacity with significantly strained resources. While we continue to balance outpatient surgical cases with our normal acute practices, the dramatic increase in COVID rates at the community level, has translated into an enormous rise in Emergency Department utilization, and a high volume of infected unvaccinated patients being admitted to the hospital for intensive treatment. Tragically, these elevated volumes have impacted our ability to continue to provide inpatient elective surgical options. In order for Mercy to compensate for the heavy influx of COVID cases, we have made the hard decision to temporarily postpone some surgical procedures that have been identified as non-emergent/urgent. For instance, if an elective procedure has a high probability of requiring post-surgical bed use and hospitalization then it won’t be scheduled or performed. As soon as the conditions stabilize, we will promptly resume those important services. Outpatient surgeries and procedures not needing hospitalization will continue, and will be done mostly at the Oregon Surgery Center. Please recognize that these situations are extremely fluid. We greatly appreciate your patience and understanding. Right now, Mercy has 43 total COVID patients spread across multiple units in the hospital. 11 of those are being managed in our Intensive Care Unit, and 8 of them are being actively sustained by invasive mechanical airway support. As the need for ventilator equipment increases, and the staffing pool is further stretched and depleted, Mercy’s Life Care Team will be trepidatiously considering the implementation of Crisis Standards of Care. This is when, in public health emergencies and viral pandemics, hospitals are pushed beyond their normal operating standards and are forced to make difficult triaging and allocation decisions. In practical terms, if the trend does not improve, the Life Care Team might be confronted with the painful task of prioritizing treatment, according to who would medically benefit the most from the care being provided. This would be predicated on recognized, evidenced-based guidelines. We desperately hope to avoid this possibility, and so our plea to the community is simple. Please wear a mask, exercise an abundance of caution, and be vaccinated for the good of your neighbor and the welfare of the public. The current projections are deeply concerning. In the absence of wise and decisive action, Mercy will experience a more than doubling of her current COVID patient load by mid-September. Such a scenario would overwhelm our capacity and paralyze our ability to provide all types of care.” According to respected medical sources, the data overwhelmingly illustrates that the three widely available COVID vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death. In fact, it currently shows that vaccines are 70-80% effective in preventing symptomatic disease, and over 90% effective in keeping you from being hospitalized or dying from COVID. To illustrate this point, 43 of the 47 patients currently hospitalized with COVID are not vaccinated. Again, as we have said since the beginning, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer our Douglas County Public Health Office, our partners at Douglas Public Health Network and our local health care community continue to encourage our residents to be safe, stay healthy and protect those you love; take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus; stay home if you are sick and consider making the choice to get the vaccine in order to protect our community from continued grief. Access to emergent and essential medical care at our local hospital is a primary necessity in our community. The Douglas County Board of Commissioners fully support Mercy in their efforts and decisions. Additionally, our hearts and thoughts go out to all the Mercy employees and volunteers who are dedicated to serving our community through this crisis and in all other challenges they might face in the future. Sincerely, Chair, Tom Kress, Tim Freeman, Chris Boice