Hospitals CEO offers assessment of COVID

Dr. Lesley J. Ogden, CEO. Photo by Cheri Brubaker

Dr. Lesley Ogden, chief executive officer of Samaritan North Lincoln and Samaritan Pacific Communities hospitals, offered a frank assessment of where the county and the state stand in the struggle against COVID.

Ogden, dressed in scrubs, was headed to a vaccination clinic on May 19. “The biggest impact I can make on this particular scenario is to get as many people vaccinated as fast as possible,” she explained. Ogden saw an aunt and uncle to the virus.

So, two or three days each week, Ogden joins the many other volunteers win the countywide effort — by Lincoln County Public Health, Samaritan, fire departments and emergency medical responders — to distribute vaccines. “I am going to be part of the solution,” Ogden said.

While Lincoln County has reached a 65% vaccination rate and moved to low risk status, the danger presented by COVID remains. Ogden stated even though the infection rate is declining, there are currently a record number of people in hospitals.

Last night (May 18), Ogden related, region one, the Portland area, was not accepting transfers. Including children’s hospitals and level one trauma centers.

“When people need a higher level of care, there’s nowhere to transfer them,” she said.

The county is actually at the end of a third surge in mid-May, and the number of available hospital beds alarmingly low statewide. “We had to do two recent emergency surgeries at North Lincoln Hospital we shouldn’t be doing,” she said. “Fortunately we have very skilled surgeons and very skilled nursing staff and there were good outcomes.”

Vaccines are available on a walk-in basis. The challenge now, Ogden said, is to reach those who are hesitant or resistant to vaccination. Acknowledging a traditional anti-vaccination movement that has been gaining followers, “It’s different with COVID. It’s been politicized,” she said.

“There’s been so much misinformation across, especially, social media,” Ogden observed. “People listen to other people without understanding they have no qualifications, no real backing, to make the statements they do. The misinformation that is out there is incredible.”

Recalling a young woman who was wrongly convinced the vaccine would make her infertile, Ogden said, “There is an enormous amount of data showing nothing of the kind happens.” Ogden added that such unfounded fears often come from social media.

“The opinion of the medical establishment across the globe is absolutely that these vaccines work, they are shown to be amazingly efficacious against the original COVID virus as well as against variants,” Ogden stated unequivocally.

The success of the virus is better than hoped, Ogden said. “There’s no disagreement about what works against COVID, including masks — how powerful a barrier can be against creating in germs.” Ogden pointed to the negligible flu season as evidence of the effectiveness of masks.

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