Ambulances Are Temporarily Being Diverted to “Manage Capacity” at Salem Health, One of the Oregon Hospitals

Manage Capacity: Since Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., Salem Health has begun sending ambulances to other facilities.

These precautions are being taken because of an uptick in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases, as well as flu and COVID-19 patients, at hospitals across Oregon.

This is the hospital’s second “diversion” in the past decade. The hospital only redirected patients for four hours back in July of 2022.

Diversion occurs when a hospital requests that ambulances transport patients who do not require immediate life-saving care to another facility. All walk-ins are still welcome at the hospitals.

Ambulances Are Temporarily Being Diverted to “Manage Capacity” at Salem Health

Salem Health and the Oregon Hospital Association report that diversion is frequent practice at many institutions.

Although representatives from Salem Health were unavailable for an interview, they did provide the following statement in writing:

In order to deal with the overcrowding at their hospitals, Salem Health is using a variety of strategies.

As of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, it was verified that ambulances were being rerouted from West Valley Hospital in Dallas, Oregon, to Legacy Silverton Medical Center in Silverton, and to Good Samaritan Hospitals in Corvallis and Albany.

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“There has been an increased volume of patients in the emergency departments, with some requiring hospitalization,” a spokesman from Good Samaritan Hospital stated in a written statement. “Our hospitals have gone on divert status because there are not enough staffed beds to satisfy the demand in the ED.

This situation is unstable and subject to alter on a daily basis, but it poses a greater threat right now because of the high volume.”

Ambulances Are Temporarily Being Diverted to "Manage Capacity" at Salem Health
Ambulances Are Temporarily Being Diverted to “Manage Capacity” at Salem Health

In Oregon, first responders have access to a database including information on hospitals’ diversion policies. States like Georgia have made the data available to the general public.

Multiple emails and phone calls to the Oregon Health Authority on Wednesday went unanswered. The Oregon Hospital Association declined an interview request.

In its entirety, Salem Health’s announcement can be found below:

Safeguarding the health of both patients and employees is a top priority for Salem Health. The temporary modifications to our divert status that were revealed in July are one such instrument. A popular strategy used by hospitals to deal with capacity issues is called “divert,” which reroutes incoming ambulances to alternate facilities.

For over a decade, Salem Hospital had not been redirecting ambulances. Salem Health is implementing a plan that will trigger divert at specific high volume thresholds, despite all efforts to reduce divert. Efforts will be made to minimize divert times by monitoring them closely.

We realize this is a big adjustment for our area, but it is in line with our vision that “no patient, employee, or provider harm is acceptable to us.” To clarify, ambulance diversion means non-life-threatening patients who arrive by ambulance will be held for a short time. Privately transported patients and those with emergent, life-threatening conditions will always be welcome here.

On July 26, as part of this scheme, Salem Hospital initially used the diversion. Time was limited to less than four (4) hours, and it was evaluated regularly during that time in order to remove the divert status as soon as feasible. At 8:55 a.m. on November 29, Salem Health once again activated divert status. Up to 2:30 pm on November 30th, Salem Hospital has maintained a divert status.

Even though the Salem Health facility in Dallas, West Valley Hospital, uses it’s own divert triggers, it too was diverted from November 29 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. This morning at 8:40, West Valley Hospital went back on diversion, and it has been there ever since.

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In order to deal with the overcrowding at their hospitals, Salem Health is using a variety of strategies. A factor is the increased length of stay (LOS). Averaging over twenty-five patients per day, the amount of COVID-positive patients at our hospital is enough to fill an entire nursing unit. This is not just a problem at Salem Health, but at all Oregon hospitals.

In addition, there are still 40-80 patients each day who could be discharged from the hospital if they had access to skilled nursing facilities and long-term care facilities, freeing up beds for those who need hospital-level care. Hospitalization and emergency room visits have been affected by the increased rates of respiratory viruses like RSV and the flu.

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