COVID-overwhelmed hospitals postpone cancer care and other treatment

In Oregon, it’s a terrible time to be ill at the moment. According to some physicians, when hospitals become overcrowded with COVID-19 patients and other medical problems go untreated, this is the message they are sending. When Charlie Callagan was sitting on his porch in the smokey summer air of Merlin, Oregon, he seemed to be in excellent condition. The tiny Rogue Valley hamlet of Merlin is located in southern Oregon. However, Callagan, 72, suffers from a disease known as multiple myeloma, which is a kind of blood cancer that affects the bone marrow. “It has an effect on the immune system as well as the bones,” he said. According to the results of a PET scan, my bones seemed to be “sort of Swiss cheese-like” in appearance.

Callagan is a former ranger with the National Park Service. He fought in the Vietnam War fifty years ago. Doctors discovered that his cancer had been related to exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant that was employed during the war. This April, he was diagnosed with the disease. The maps, which depict hot areas where Agent Orange was sprayed in Vietnam, have been used by Callagan in recent years to gather information. According to him, “it turns out that the airbase I was in was completely enclosed.” “They sprayed all over the place.” Few weeks ago, Callagan was driving the nearly four-hour journey to Oregon Health & Science University in Portland in preparation for a bone marrow transplant, which would have required him to stay in the hospital for a week and remain in the Portland area for additional testing for another two weeks. He received a phone call from his doctor while on route.

According to him, “They say things like, ‘We were informed this morning that we had to cancel the operations that we had scheduled,'” Callagan’s operation had to be postponed due to overcrowding at the hospital. That is the situation at many hospitals in Oregon and other states, which have been inundated with covid patients as a result of the epidemic. In the aftermath of the pandemic’s tidal spike, according to OHSU spokesman Erik Robinson, the hospital, which is the state’s sole public academic medical center and serves patients from throughout the area, has had to postpone a slew of operations and treatments. “Initially, surgical postponements affected patients who required an overnight hospital stay, but more recently, surgical postponements have affected all outpatient operations and procedures,” Robinson said.

Callagan said that his bone marrow transplant has not been postponed as of this writing. According to Dr. Mujahid Rizvi, who directs the oncology clinic that is responsible for Callagan’s treatment, such delays may have serious repercussions. When it comes to cancer therapy, there is occasionally a window of opportunity when you may intervene and possibly cure the patient, according to Rizvi. “If you leave it too long, the cancer may spread,” says the doctor. And that may have a negative impact on the prognosis, perhaps making a potentially treatable illness incurable.” The consequences of postponing treatment in hospitals are very significant right now, and they extend beyond cancer treatment.

Patients were getting ready for their open-heart surgery that day, which I saw. Dr. Kent Dauterman, a cardiologist and co-director of the regional heart center in Medford, Oregon, stated, “I’ve had patients who had a brain tumor with visual abnormalities, or someone who had lung cancer, and their operations were canceled that day, and they had to come back the next day.” “It’s always a possibility that they’ll return.”

According to Dauterman, the local hospital had 28 patients who were awaiting open-heart surgery in early September, 24 patients who need pacemakers, and 22 patients who were awaiting lung operations at the time. He claims that there is no delay during regular business hours. “I don’t want to be hyperbolic, but there have been a lot of other things that have killed Oregonians before this,” Dauterman said. According to the Oregon Health Authority, the overwhelming majority of patients in Oregon hospitals who have COVID are not immunized at this time, with about five times as many as those who have received the vaccination. Infections with COVID are beginning to decrease after reaching a high during the delta wave. However, even when there isn’t a pandemic, there isn’t a lot of spare space in Oregon’s healthcare infrastructure.

“If you look at the number of hospital beds per capita, Oregon has 1.7 hospital beds for every thousand people living in the state. Becky Hultberg, CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said that the rate was the lowest in the nation at the time. During the initial wave of the pandemic, a new research focusing on reducing non-emergency operations took a look back at how Veterans Health Administration facilities handled themselves. It was discovered that the VA health system was able to decrease elective treatments by 91 percent as a result of this initiative. It was discovered that ceasing elective operations was an excellent strategy for freeing up beds in critical care units for the care of patients with COVID. However, the research did not examine the effects for those patients who were forced to wait for treatment.

Dr. Brajesh Lal, a professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the study’s main author, stated, “Even in retrospect, we obviously made the correct choice in restricting elective surgery.” “However, as a culture, we have not truly addressed the question ‘At what cost in the long run?’” says the author. He said that they would not know this unless they do further long-term study. When asked about his bone-marrow transplant, Charlie Callagan, who lives in southern Oregon, said he does not believe it to be as urgent as what other individuals are experiencing right now.

In addition to himself, “there are a lot of other individuals who are affected,” he added. The wait for a hospital bed is making people sick and perhaps kill them.” That irritates me to no end. It’s difficult to maintain silence right now.” In his opinion, it’s difficult to sympathize with the COVID patients who are clogging up hospitals when a simple vaccination might have avoided the vast majority of their hospitalizations.

Source: Modern Healthcare (

Categories: Clinical