Portland sister station KGW was granted access for this special report
BEND, Ore. (KGW) — Oregon’s hospitals are in crisis. Beds are filled with COVID-19 patients — more than ever before, and nearly all of them are unvaccinated. Health care workers are sounding the alarm that the current situation is untenable, but still forecast to get worse.
This story is part of a special KGW series, Overwhelmed: Inside Oregon’s ICUs.
For the first time since the pandemic began, our crews were granted access to ICUs at two Oregon hospitals to see the severity of what doctors and nurses are dealing with every day. A warning to readers: this story and video discusses difficult topics, including death.
“We have nothing left to give”
Inside St. Charles Bend, behind a locked entry on the first floor, sliding doors seal off glass-walled rooms with a single bed inside.
This is the intensive care unit, where the area’s sickest patients receive care.
On Tuesday, nine ICU beds hold COVID-19 patients, each connected to various wires and tubes; machines near their head silently display numbers and charts that let doctors and nurses know how they’re doing.
On this day, things are not going well for three patients. One in particular, a woman in her 50s, will not live much longer.
“This patient is trying to die right now. We’re trying to get ahold of family, to let them know transitions are happening,” said Monica Schulz, the nurse who manages this ICU.
The medical professionals here are the patients’ best and often last hope.
“The patient is still a full code, so we are going to continue to do everything. But the unfortunate thing is we have nothing left to give. They’re 100% oxygen, they’re fully supported on the ventilator and it’s all oxygen-related. There’s nothing else we can do, so we’re trying to get the family to come in or make them a do-not-resuscitate [order],” said Schulz.
A respiratory therapist uses the bag-valve mask attached to the patient’s mouth to increase oxygen saturation levels. He slowly squeezes the bag, then lets it fill with oxygen and squeezes again.
“There’s about a 20% mortality rate in most ICUs on any given day,” said Schulz. “But with COVID it’s been much higher than that. Again, it’s all unnecessary and preventable. That’s the heartbreaking part.”
Among staff who’ve been working the frontlines from the beginning, there is now a profound sadness and frustration that none of this needs to be happening. The vaccines against COVID-19 are extremely effective at keeping people out of the hospital, but people are still choosing not to get vaccinated.
Roughly 90% of people who end up at St. Charles with COVID-19 are not vaccinated.
“Staff are saying, ‘I don’t even have compassion any more,’” said Schulz. “I want to have compassion, but it’s hard when people are making choices that are causing them to die. How can I give my heart when they don’t seem to care? It’s very challenging. They put their game faces on when they show up at the door, but conversations in the break room and outside of work are heart-wrenching.”
Read more, and watch the full report here.
Originally Appeared Here