St. Charles preparing for big eclipse crowds

System official addresses preps, rumors

St. Charles preps for eclipse influx

MADRAS, Ore. - During the days leading up to the Aug 21 solar eclipse, the population of Central Oregon could double, and one of the questions that's on many people’s minds is, “What if something bad happens?”

A top St. Charles Health System official outlined how they’re preparing Thursday.

"We're planning to essentially mimic the population growth,” said Jeff Absalon, chief physician executive of the organization. “So for instance, if we're going to have twice as many people in our region, we're going to anticipate at least twice as many needs in our acute care services."

Absalon is leading the emergency coordination effort for St. Charles.He said they’re preparing for at least 280,000 people in the area.

He also addressed rumors the National Guard is being called in to assist.

"We have requested assistance from our tri-county emergency operations coordinators and through them, to the state," he said. "So they’re doing their own planning, and we have yet to hear back where they are in that process.”

Mobile medical care units could also be deployed, but Absalon said it’s not something they are coordinating.

"For St. Charles, at this time, our planning is around our facilities,” he said

One of those facilities is the newly renovated hospital and expanded ER at St. Charles Madras, which is opening at the perfect time.

"Madras is such a focal point for the eclipse that by doubling the capacity of (key rooms and services), we'll be able to reduce the need and some of the possibilities of having to medevac someone out of Madras to the other facilities,” Program Manager Tim Finkle said.

There has also been worries expressed that there won't be enough staff working during the eclipse period to handle the extra needs, but Absalon said the hospital has restricted time-off requests and that the hospitals will be fully staffed. 

Our coverage of the solar eclipse and interactive maps can be found on the Eclipse 2017 page.

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