“You will see refrigerated trucks at the back of the ER taking the bodies,” local surgeon sounds the alarm with COVID-19 surge

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – A Rogue Valley surgeon is giving NBC5 News an inside look at the grave state of local hospitals before he says things get even worse. He’s part of the Rogue Gateway Rotary Club in Grants Pass. This week he spoke to his club about the heartbreaking reality of what’s going on in our hospitals.

“We have hourly people coming into the hospital who cannot breathe. I cannot emphasize enough that this is not a joke. We are in a true healthcare crisis,” said Dr. Scott Nelson, a surgeon at Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. He’s sounding the alarm for everyone to take COVID-19 seriously before it’s too late.

“We’re going to see our death rate exponentially increase over the next several weeks and months in our community if we don’t get people vaccinated,” said Dr. Nelson.

He said if things don’t change soon hospitals won’t have enough room to store the dead bodies.

“We must vaccinate one another to protect ourselves and our community. If we do not do this I guarantee you, you will see refrigerated trucks at the back of the er taking the bodies out because that is where we’re gonna be in the next week or two,” said Dr. Nelson.

Nelson said Three Rivers Medical Center is overflowing with patients. It has 180 exceeding its emergency capacity limits. Normally it’s only allowed by the state to have 121.

Nelson says the hospital is potentially canceling all procedures, including life-saving ones for cancer patients.

“Our concerns currently are that we will have to start rationing care triaging patients,” said Dr. Nelson, “I have cancer patients that are told they have to wait months potentially for surgery. There will be more ramifications from this than just the COVID effect. We will have people dying of cancer and other problems because we cannot take care of them right now”.

While he wishes local leaders hear doctors’ pleas, it’s simply not happening.

“Our county and our city are not carrying the message that is coming from the medical community. I need citizens to get the word out. This is real. We need to protect ourselves,” said Dr. Nelson.

He also wants to eliminate any misinformation about the pandemic’s impact on our health care systems.

“This is not a conspiracy theory. The hospital is not making millions of dollars off of this. We’ve shut everything down,” said Dr. Nelson.

Dr. Nelson is also on the Grants Pass School Board. He said a month ago he thought that masks weren’t necessary in school this fall because of low case numbers. The Delta strain has changed his opinion.

A portion of the story reflecting Dr. Nelson’s comments regarding COVID-19 deaths at his facility has been removed from this article. NBC5 News reached out to an Asante spokeswoman for clarification about how many COVID-related deaths it’s seen of late. She said the health system has had a total of 15 COVID-related deaths in the past 30 days at its 3 hospitals (Ashland Community, Rogue Regional, and Three Rivers). Click HERE for Dr. Nelson’s speech.
NBC5 News reporter Katie Streit comes from her hometown, Las Vegas. Katie went to the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism & Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. While in Las Vegas, Katie won a Student Emmy for her coverage of the Las Vegas Shooting Anniversary. She also hosted and produced the university's political news show, where she interviewed Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and Congresswoman Dina Titus (NV-1). Her passion for politics turned into a coveted internship at the US Capitol in Washington D.C. In her final months working in the Las Vegas area, she was recognized for her journalism achievements by the Nevada Broadcaster's Foundation. Katie is excited to tell the stories of local Southern Oregonians and Northern Californians. Feel free to contact her at [email protected]
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