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Asante's Ashland Community Hospital to close 4-bed ICU

Image of emergency entrance outside hospital.
Erik Neumann
Jefferson Public Radio
Asante Ashland Community Hospital in Ashland, Ore.

The Rogue Valley’s largest health care provider is closing the intensive care unit at its Ashland hospital.

The Asante Ashland Community Hospital announced its four-bed ICU will be closing by the end of the year. It was first reported by Ashland.news.

Historically, the small four-bed ICU hasn’t seen a lot of patients. The Asante board of directors decided to close the department a few months ago, as part of the provider's efforts to recover from the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic.

"We may have one or two critical care patients a week," said Dr. Steven Hersch, administrator and vice president of medical affairs at the hospital.

Hersch said the ICU was used more often during the Delta surge of the COVID pandemic, but since then its frequently closed because it hasn't seen many patients.

“That caused us to have difficulty recruiting and retaining nurses and eliminating contract labor," Hersch said. "It contributed to a significant operating loss in the ICU.”

The ICU was costing Asante $1.5 million dollars annually, Hersch said.

Because only one or two patients may come to the ICU in a week, the nurses haven’t gotten as much real-world experience as the hospital would like. All of the nurses will be relocated to other roles at Asante, Hersh said.

“They may help us by taking on other roles in the hospital," Hersch said. "We may have and continue to have critical care outreach nurses – these are critical care trained nurses – who help support the staff on the med-surg ward, in the emergency room, in the recovery area in providing extra resources.”

The emergency department in Ashland will remain open, and Hersch says if a patient is in need of critical care they already have plans to transfer them to Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford or Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass.

"The intensive care doctors in those units have been helping us via telehealth take care of our ICU patients," he said. "And we would end up transferring our sickest of sick ICU patients to those facilities for their in-person intensive unit care."

Hersch said the nurses at those hospitals have more consistent experience in taking care of critical patients.

The last day for the Ashland ICU is officially December 31st, but Hersch says it could close earlier than that if there are no patients.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.