Oregon Abandons Field Hospital Idea

Oregon officials have backed away from one key request that they disclosed at a press conference less than a week ago: a field hospital. 

Now, the state is only asking for additional medical staff and not a field hospital, Jonathan Modie, a spokesman for the health authority, told The Lund Report in an email. Modie didn’t elaborate, other than that “conditions change continually.”

That marks a turnaround from just a week ago.

On Aug. 19, Allen told reporters in a press conference with the governor that “Oregon continues to pursue a fully staffed field hospital from the federal government.”

By then, OHA officials had submitted a request to the FEMA through the state’s Office of Emergency Management. Behind the scenes, state officials were even more ambitious in their request.

The Aug. 10 summary of the state’s request to FEMA stated: “4 field hospitals with staffing,” including advanced life support capabilities and pharmacy supplies, public records show. It predicted a medical surge that would “exceed the need” of an additional 1,000 beds.

“There is no field hospital,” Modie said, when asked how the four hospitals would be configured and located. 

“Conditions change continually as we work with our FEMA and HHS (Health and Human Services) partners, our hospital partners and others in order to best respond,” Modie said.

It’s unclear if FEMA rejected the request or if Oregon officials simply decided to change strategies. FEMA officials couldn’t be reached Wednesday.

Modie said the additional 1,000 bed estimate was based on Oregon Health & Science University modeling that predicted more than 1,000 people would be hospitalized by Labor Day with COVID-19. That same modeling also suggested Oregon hospitals would be short by 400 to 500 beds. 

Some additional workers are already in Oregon. On Sunday, 24 paramedics arrived through FEMA’s National Ambulance Contract at hospitals throughout central and southern Oregon. They are primarily serving in emergency departments as technicians or in related support roles on hospital floors. 

They’ll be on hand for 30 days through Sept. 20, but that could be extended.

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

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