Due to the extraordinary impacts of COVID-19, much like our colleagues across the region and country, OHSU and OHSU Doernbecher Hospitals are not currently able to provide necessary and life-saving care to all Oregonians who need it.
Our hospitals are full of patients of all ages. While some are sick with COVID, others have various other conditions. Many of them have delayed preventive and necessary medical care over the course of the pandemic. As a result, they are sicker and require more hospital resources, many of which are already depleted by the impacts of the past 18 months.
We are doing all that we can to ensure the health and well-being of those who come to our hospitals. However, amid the huge spike in coronavirus cases, the reality is that patients are waiting hours, sometimes days, in our emergency department before a hospital bed becomes available; medical care is being administered in waiting rooms, conference rooms and hallways; and at times, severely ill adult patients are being cared for in our pediatric wards.
We simply do not have enough space, staff or resources to provide care to those in need. This includes our most vulnerable, precious population: children.
If Oregonians do not take immediate action to reverse the increase in COVID-19 cases in our state, the consequences will be even more catastrophic than they are already.
The next few weeks will be among the most difficult we have had in terms of providing necessary medical care for critically ill individuals facing cancer, heart disease and even broken bones. As we approach the return to in-person school and sports this fall, as well as the start of our standard cold and flu season, it is crucial for Oregonians to act now.
For the safety of our friends and neighbors, as well as our children - the majority of whom are not yet able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine - we ask of you:
- Do not delay your or your child’s regular checkups or annual vaccinations. Preventive care is key to the overall wellness.
- Get vaccinated against COVID if you are able and eligible to do so. Vaccinations are the single best thing a person can do to prevent severe sickness for themselves and others, particularly those who are unable to get the vaccine.
- When interacting with others, vaccinated or not, all Oregonians should follow at least two of these three precautions: wear a mask when indoors in a public space, with people outside of your household or outdoors where physical distancing is not possible; meet with others outside, where transmission is less likely; and physically distance whenever possible.
We and our colleagues are here and will continue to provide the absolute best care to all Oregonians that we can, despite our exhaustion. However, we are very worried and we need your help.
We have a common responsibility to protect each other, especially children - be they our own, or our neighbors’.
Please vaccinate, mask yourselves and your children, and let’s get through this together.
Dana Braner, M.D., F.A.A.P, F.C.C.M is the Credit Unions for Kids chair and professor of pediatrics (critical care), OHSU School of Medicine and physician-in-chief, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital; Matthias Merkel, M.D., Ph.D., is senior associate chief medical officer for capacity management and patient flow, and professor of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine.
This viewpoint was originally published August 25, 2021, by The Oregonain.