St. Charles Health System has purchased a refrigerated mobile morgue to handle an overflow of deceased patients.
So far this month, the hospital averaged 2.7 deaths per day, Lisa Goodman, St. Charles Health System spokeswoman, said in an email. In June, the hospital averaged 1.4 deaths a day.
Not all the deaths are COVID-19 related, Goodman said. So far this month, 64% of the deaths are COVID-19 related, compared to 2% in September 2020, Goodman said.
The refrigerated, 17-foot trailer was brought to the hospital property Sept. 10, Goodman said. It was necessary because area mortuaries have been busy and are not readily available, she said. The hospital’s morgue, which was built in the 1970s, is only large enough to hold three people, Goodman said.
The trailer can hold up to 24 bodies.
Brad Byrholdt, general manager of Bend Funeral Homes, said that business was no busier than normal and declined to comment further.
The need for a refrigerated mobile morgue was identified by the hospital’s emergency preparedness plan. The hospital is hoping to sell the trailer to the county emergency management program using American Rescue Plan Act funds, according to the hospital. The hospital purchased the Acela Truck pull-trailer for $82,000.
“It’s been a known gap in our emergency preparedness for a number of years,” Lara Simpson, St. Charles supply chain director, said in a prepared statement. “With this recent COVID-19 surge, we just finally hit that critical point where we needed to do something.”
In one seven-day period recently, 19 people died, according to the hospital. All but six were from COVID-19.
On Wednesday, St. Charles reported it had 90 COVID-19 patients, of which 17 were in the intensive care unit where all but two were on ventilators. Two of the 17 patients in intensive care were fully vaccinated, according to the hospital’s website.
The Oregon Health Authority reported Wednesday that statewide there were 939 patients hospitalized for COVID-19, which is five fewer than Tuesday. There were 270 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, which is six more than Tuesday. The state also reported 26 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 3,649, according to the Oregon Health Authority’s Wednesday report.
The state also reported an additional 2,312 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 317,107 positive cases.
The delta variant has been linked with the rapid increase in infections. Most say that it is unlikely to peak before autumn, according to a new forecast from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.