COVID-19 Outbreak Hits St. Charles Hospital In Redmond

St. Charles Health System Redmond.JPG

St. Charles Health System on Wednesday reported an outbreak of COVID-19 cases that infected 31 caregivers at its Redmond hospital in central Oregon. 

The company’s officials said they reported the cases to Deschutes County Health Services and Oregon Health Authority. The outbreak follows another one earlier this month at Providence Portland Medical Center that sickened 49 patients and staff members. Another outbreak that started in December at PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington has sickened about 30 patients and employees. The outbreak is the first one to affect the St. Charles Health System, which operates four hospitals in Bend, Redmond, Prineville and Madras. 

 “We are taking every possible measure to stop the spread of the virus, to protect our patients and our caregivers,” Aaron Adams, chief executive officer for the Redmond hospital said in a statement.

The hospital is not sure yet whether any patients are linked to the outbreak. due to the outbreak as it’s still under investigation, Spokeswoman Lisa Goodman said it is still under investigation. 

The Redmond campus, with 450 employees, has put new safety measures in place on top of existing COVID-19 precautions, the St. Charles Health System said in a press release. Those measures include: COVID-19 testing for all caregivers at the Redmond hospital; telling caregivers to stay home and get tested if they have any symptoms and increasing air exchange and air filtration standards; 

The hospital also is instructing frontline health care workers who directly serve patients to use N95 respirators and eye protection throughout their shifts.. The hospital has beefed up its signage to remind employees about capacity limits in break rooms and conference rooms and to maintain social distancing.

The hospital has limited visitors to caregivers and attendants who help patients with a language barrier or disability so they can receive treatment; close family members of patients in end-of-life care; and the parents or legal guardians of hospitalized children. Even those measures are tight. If one parent meets the screening criteria and the other one does not, only the one who passes screening criteria, such as temperature checks, gains access. 

 “We hope our community understands and will help us by following all COVID-19 restrictions, both inside and outside of our facilities,” Adams said. “The number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to be high throughout the region and we need your help to ensure we have a healthy workforce to care for you and your loved ones.”

The outbreak coincides with the discovery of a highly infectious variant of the novel coronavirus that was first identified in Britain and has now marched across the United States. The University of Portland announced over the weekend that one of its staff members was infected with the strain, dubbed B.1.1.7. U.S. officials expect it to be the dominant form of the virus by March. 

Oregon health officials are concerned because it spreads much more quickly than the initial strains found in the United States. It is not more deadly and does not cause more severe disease but it is likely to increase the COVID-19 toll in Oregon, including hospitalizations and deaths.

It’s not yet clear whether the Providence hospital outbreak was caused by the same strain. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The outbreak, initially reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive, affected the hospital’s 4-k unit, which treats patients who don’t have COVID-19 but require intense care for other needs. It forced the hospital to close down its unit and was the fourth and largest outbreak at a Providence facility.

PeaceHealth has not released any information about the strain that affected its hospital in Vancouver.

St. Charles, which is based in Bend, is the biggest health care system in central Oregon, with more than 4,500 employees and more than 350 medical staff at its hospitals and clinics. 

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or on Twitter @BenBotkin1.


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