“We could really use everybody’s help, just to make it a little bit easier on us,” says Jaclyn Center, associate nurse manager for critical care and services. “Wear your mask, stay away from people if you can, and that will just give us a little bit of room to continue doing the work that we need to do.” (Courtesy Providence of Oregon)
“We could really use everybody’s help, just to make it a little bit easier on us,” says Jaclyn Center, associate nurse manager for critical care and services. “Wear your mask, stay away from people if you can, and that will just give us a little bit of room to continue doing the work that we need to do.” (Courtesy Providence of Oregon)
Tents are being set up outside the emergency departments at Providence Portland Medical Center and Providence St. Vincent Medical Center to cope with the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Initially, the tents will be used to assess people as they come in and provide socially distant space while they wait to be seen.

The surge, coming at the beginning of the holiday season, has doctors, nurses and other health care providers at the hospitals worried.

“Our doctors and nurses have been under a constant amount of stress since the spring but over the last several weeks, this has been the most severe I’ve seen it since the start of the pandemic in Oregon,” said Dr. Justin Jin, Providence infectious disease physician.

Jaclyn Center, associate nurse manager for critical care and services, shared her frustration in a video the health care system released to the media.

“It’s so aggravating to have people not take this seriously when we can show you and we’re living this day in and day out trying to take care of patients,” she says. “This is serious ... serious for every person in this hospital. We're all working hard; the patients are sick.”

Providence is now caring for 90 COVID-positive patients (or suspected COVID-positive) in its Oregon hospitals.

Large mortuary trailers are also being brought in.

Though treatments have improved and more COVID patients are surviving, the hospitals’ leadership say they need to extend limited morgue capacity to respectfully handle all patients who die.

“In alignment with our mission and values, these are sacred spaces,” said an emailed press release. “As such, our spiritual care team of chaplains will bless these spaces when they arrive, and [the chaplains] will be providing support to ensure we honor and respect the care of all who have died in this difficult time.”

The hospitals plan is to use existing hospital morgues and partner funeral homes. However, problems have arisen in other states when morgue space runs out.

Providence urges Oregonians to take precautions so the community won’t be in that worst-case scenario. To preclude those deaths, everyone needs to follow the known steps to reduce the disease’s spread: wear masks, maintain social distancing, limit or avoid social gatherings, stay home as much as possible and wash hands.

Center says she knows people want to see family. “But in the long run, wouldn't you rather see them for more years to come?”

“We realize people are going to get sick, but if you completely overwhelm the hospital system, you’re going to have more COVID deaths, and you’re also going to have more deaths from other causes,” said Jin. “You have to do the right thing not only to protect yourself but also your fellow Oregonians.”