by Jacob Lewin.
Columbia Memorial Hospital says several patients have died there because they could not be
transferred to larger, more specialized hospitals. These are not covid deaths, although it is
overcrowding due to covid that kept them from getting treatment.
In a brief statement made to the Astorian, Columbia Memorial’s CEO—Erik Thorson– says that several patients died here because they could not access metro area hospitals. Those hospitals are
overcapacity with covid patients, most of them unvaccinated. Thorson would not provide details,
including the exact number and when they died, except to say some of them needed specialized heart care. Clatsop County Public Health Director Margo Lalich says she hadn’t been informed of the deaths by the hospital, but doesn’t find the deaths to be surprising:
“The attention and the level of care that’s being required by those who are so severely ill with covid,
can cause devastating consequences for others who are also trying to seek care and are unable to access
it at this time.”
Dave Northfield is with the Oregon Hospitals Association:
“Sadly Columbia Memorial is not unique in Oregon. Just within the last few days, we’ve had reports of similar situations, patients passing away while waiting for care.”
Northfield points to deaths in Roseburg and Bend. Small hospitals often stabilize critical care patients
and then send them on. Northfield says how successfully that works depends on the individual
“For instance in Gold Beach. There’s a small hospital in Gold Beach where the ceo has said that she has had to transfer patients to Reno.”
Matt Caliza, with the Oregon Nurses’ Association, says the local deaths were news to him:
“It’s shocking when folks keep saying that the Oregon health care system is about to collapse, I think what is being reported out of CMH, out of Columbia Memorial Hospital, is that the health system collapsed.”
Caliza thinks there’s a crisis behind the crisis:
“Oregon has the fewest hospital beds per capita in the country. We were already hitting a lot of capacity issues before this,Oregon has the fewest hospital beds per capita in the country. We were already hitting a lot of capacity issues before this and those were in some of the metropolitan areas where a hospital like Columbia Memorial needs to send their patients and those were in some of the metropolitan areas where a hospital like Columbia Memorial needs to send their patients.”
Caliza says there are predictions for even fewer beds in the next couple of weeks.
Providence Seaside says it has had no deaths due to lack of access to treatment.
For KMUN Radio, I’m Jacob Lewin.