Wyden visits Asante to highlight COVID challenges – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News
Justin McCoy, an intensive care nurse, speaks with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., after a press conference in which he told reporters, “Two years later, we’re exhausted,” on Hospital working conditions under Covid-19, Saturday outside Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford. Photo by Denise Baratta
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden was in southern Oregon on Saturday to tour Asante medical facilities in Medford and Grants Pass.
The Oregon Democrat spoke to staff members at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center about how they have been affected by COVID-19 before speaking to the media.
Justin McCoy, an intensive care nurse at Asante Rogue Regional, stood alongside the senator.
Both men spoke about the importance of COVID vaccinations and boosters, particularly how they dramatically reduce the need in communities for hospital care among those who contract the virus.
Most patients requiring hospital care due to COVID-19 have not been vaccinated, leading to frustration among medical professionals, McCoy said.
“We are beyond angry,” McCoy said.
Now “we’re just sad”.
Wyden stressed that everyone who can get vaccinated should get vaccinated.
“It’s good for the community, it’s good for the families, it’s good for the practitioners,” he explained. “That’s my greatest hope.”
McCoy was able to speak from experience of the impact of the pandemic on nurses.
He spoke of how colleagues were sometimes so overwhelmed with emotion and exhaustion that they just “collapsed”, he said.
And the significant amount of care that COVID-19 patients need continues to affect all patients as the focus has shifted to the virus.
More people need care as others are still suffering from other health issues, such as heart attacks, cancers and surgeries, as well as COVID-19 patients.
“Our system is breaking from top to bottom,” McCoy said of the industry as a whole.
It was noted that Asante has adequate staff.
Some medical professionals have retired or left medicine at a time when all hands are needed most.
Wyden said he intends to find a way to solve the financial problem of rising nursing costs that has arisen during the pandemic.
He said the number of nurses working as travelers, who provide contract work to care facilities, has increased rapidly during the pandemic.
He also noted that health care facilities pay traveling nurses at least three times more than staff nurses.
The rapid and substantial increase in the number of traveling nurses is not only impacting Medicare and Social Security budgets. Asante alone is spending millions of dollars more on staff, Wyden also said.
“Without travellers, people will die,” he also stressed.
However, he also explained that while more nurses are working as travelers so they can earn a much better salary, this is a financial constraint that needs to be addressed.
Because of the pay disparity between staff and traveling nurses, the industry also urgently needs fairness and consistency, Wyden said.
And the industry that handles traveling nurse contracts needs “transparency,” he added.