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Two Rogue Valley Asante hospitals still in 'crisis standards of care' mode

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Michael Blumhardt/Asante with permission
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Registered Nurse Holly McEwan cares for a critically ill COVID patient on life support at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

Asante declared the ongoing emergency in mid-December due to nursing shortages.

Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford and Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass continue to operate under "crisis standards of care," meaning Asante is canceling surgeries that are not urgent, moving staff to departments that have the greatest need and offering incentive pay to nurses who take extra shifts.

This decision by Asante leadership was caused by ongoing staffing shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a sudden increase in patients this winter due to the combination of flu, RSV, and COVID respiratory viruses.

"We have been working to recover from this three-year crisis and this three-year pandemic that has taken its toll on our community in many ways," said Amanda Kotler, chief nursing officer for Asante. "We continue to try to balance retaining our current staff and recruiting new staff into the market with a totally different outlook in terms of nursing."

In the short term, she said Asante is relying on contract travel nurses to fill in the gaps, many of whom took the holidays off. But long-term, Asante will need to invest in its nursing staff to solve the problem. Kotler said addressing the systemic nursing shortage could take three to five years.

"In terms of Asante, it's really critical that we continue to invest in our employees in nursing and specifically career pathing or investing in their ability to advance within health care and helping support them to do so," she said.

She said patients might experience delayed wait times, but Asante is not triaging patient care.

Kotler hopes they’ll be able to exit “crisis standards of care” this month.

"Although crisis standards gives us the flexibility to make these decisions, there's no good decisions here you want, and Asante is deeply committed to getting our staffing back to where it was," she said.

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane recently earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.