ENTERPRISE — Wallowa County may have avoided the brunt of COVID-19 cases, but the hospital here stands ready to help neighboring counties, such as with the massive surge reported last week in La Grande.
On Monday, June 15, the Oregon Health Authority reported 278 new confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases statewide, with 119 of those in Union County.
Later the same day, the La Grande Observer said the Center for Human Development announced 99 new cases, bringing Union County to 123 cases — 121 confirmed and two presumptive — moving the county to the top of the state in cases per capita.
“While there is no way to predict the potential needs of other hospitals related to a COVID surge, we are committed to helping our fellow hospitals any way we can,” said Brooke Pace, communications and public relations director for Wallowa Memorial Hospital.
Pace said the 25-bed hospital is unlikely to be called upon to help since critical coronavirus patients are more likely to go to larger facilities with a larger capacity for intensive care patients.
“Due to our size, if transfers happen, we are more likely to receive non-COVID patients,” she said.
She said she does not know how many beds are available, as that changes hourly. But the hospital is nowhere near capacity at present.
However, Pace said, the hospital has made plans.
“In a surge situation, our overflow plan would accommodate up to 50 patients,” she said. "We have been planning for an event like this for months and will be ready for whatever the situation in Union County brings. We have staffing plans in place to ensure that our community continues to get the care they need.”
WMH has a cooperative agreement with Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande that includes support with personal protective equipment, supplies and other equipment needs, Pace said.
Another source of help is the Oregon Health Authority, which serves as the public health department for the region. The OHA is responsible for contact tracing — tracking potential sources of infection transmission — in the state.
“The outbreak in Union County should be a wake-up call and reminder to practice precautions that are known to prevent outbreaks, including avoiding large gatherings, wearing masks while in public, washing your hands often, staying home if you are sick and practicing proper physical distancing,” Pace said.