There was more action outside St. Charles Bend during the eclipse Monday than inside the hospital as a projected influx of patients never materialized.
Doctors and nurses, patients and staff took advantage of the unexpected slowdown to gather outside the hospital and on balconies to watch the celestial event.
St. Charles had been preparing for the event for months, canceling elective surgeries, adding extra staff and streamlining patient flow through the emergency rooms at the four hospitals in its system. Hospital officials cordoned off a part of the parking lot in Bend to serve as an extra landing pad for helicopters. It was large enough to accommodate National Guard choppers if needed. The system rented extra beds, intravenous pumps and other equipment, overstaffed critical areas of the hospital and hired extra nurses from out of town.
The moves would have allowed the hospital to handle up to double its normal volume. But Monday, only 57 percent of the beds at St. Charles Bend were occupied. At 2 p.m., the only part of the hospital experiencing any kind of volume problem was the neonatal intensive care unit, which was unrelated to the eclipse. Everything else, hospital officials finally acknowledged, was quiet.
“We were nervous about using that term early on thinking it might jinx us, but now we’ve used it quite a bit,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, chief physician executive for St. Charles Health System. “We’ll see how the next 48 hours roll as people exit the region, but we’re prepared.”
If volumes remain low, the hospital may pull back on its extended immediate care hours and resume elective surgeries by Wednesday.
— Reporter: 541-633-2162, firstname.lastname@example.org