CHI Mercy Medical Center prepared for the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, but it came with a hefty price tag.

The hospital expects a $9 million drop in revenue for the month of April, and 350 staff members were laid off or saw their hours reduced, Chief Executive Operator Kelly Morgan said during a tour of the COVID-19 surge unit Wednesday.

“This is a major impact,” Morgan said. “We clearly want to keep patients safe, we want to be prepared. We’ve done both of that. It’s had a major impact.”

Following the executive order by Gov. Kate Brown, the hospital stopped performing elective surgeries that require extensive use of personal protective equipment, but the hospital remains open for care.

Despite being open, there was a 25% drop in emergency room visits, a 45% drop in inpatient visits, a 75% loss in surgeries and a 60% loss in rehabilitation patients, according to Morgan. The hospital is currently operating at about 50% capacity.

“People should come in for needed care,” said Kathleen Nickel, communications director at CHI Mercy Medical Center. “The hospital is for all patients. If we need to take care of COVID patients, we will do that safely and not have that impact our other patients.”

To protect patients and staff the hospital from the coronavirus a separate COVID-19 unit in a self-contained area of the building has been set up. The COVID-19 unit includes 30 beds for patients suffering from COVID-19 and an additional six beds in an intensive care unit.

There have been coronavirus patients at the hospital but never more than one at a time, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Gray.

The hospital plans to open the COVID-19 unit if there are four patients in its care diagnosed with COVID-19.

This will help the hospital conserve personal protection equipment.

The COVID-19 intensive care unit is attached to a separate intensive care unit for coronavirus patients which will require a higher level of staff protection.

There are three rooms set up for intensive care. Each can hold up to two patients who require critical care such as ventilators.

“I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Gray said.

Preparations in Douglas County for the coronavirus began in mid-February. Original estimates at that time suggested the number of critical care patients in Douglas County in mid-April would be around 40-70, with between 130-150 coronavirus patients in the hospital.

“Fortunately, probably due to a number of the efforts that have been enacted publicly and privately, that’s all slowed,” Gray said. “When you look at doubling time. How long does it take cases to double? Instead of it being three days, which it was earlier, it’s eight days now. That’s really put a damper, in a good way, on the number of cases that we’ve had. We hope that continues.”

The hospital remains open for emergency care, including surgery, and other care that required a low level usage of personal protective equipment, such as scans or imaging.

Gray said he hoped the governor would take an incremental approach to loosening the restrictions, including those placed on surgeries.

“We believe that we can begin to safely take care of the community patients who need care and still have this in our pocket to open up quickly any time we can, kind of balance both of those,” Gray said.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter


React to this story:


(8) comments


On today’s live broadcast from the Whitehouse, our President said the United States has performed more “per capita” tests than any other country in the world. In truth, there are 42 other countries that have performed more tests “per capita” than the U.S.

---The U.S. has tested 1.0% of its population.

---23 countries have tested over 2.0% of their population.

---7 countries have tested over 3.0% of their population.

---4 countries have tested over 5.0% of their population.

---2 countries have tested over 10.0% of their population.

---Oregon has tested 0.8% of its population.

---Douglas County has tested 0.5% of its population.

Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Deborah Birx claimed today the U.S. has the spare capacity today to do one million more coronavirus tests per day. To date, the U.S. has performed a total of 3.4 million tests since January 21. If the U.S. has that much excess capacity, what are they waiting for? We could get everyone in Douglas County tested tomorrow.


This is the direct result of running health care for profit.


When are our ghostlike Douglas County Commissioners going to reveal their plan to furlough county employees, freeze hiring, freeze promotions, freeze raises and cut spending to conserve the county budget reserve? Currently, county attorneys and Justice of the Peace court personnel continue to be paid even though the courts are shut down. County planning and permitting folks continue to be paid though construction has ground to a halt. The parks are closed down; the museum is shut down, etc., etc., etc. Yet, those out-of-work county workers are still being paid.

At this point, the unprecedented job losses COVID-19 has caused have fallen almost entirely on the private sector which is the source of taxes (income, property, hotel, etc.) that provide the bulk of Douglas County revenue. Meanwhile, county employees continue to be paid though they may be sitting at home or have no work to do, all of the while their pay drawing down reserves. Non-working county employees should be furloughed, enabling them to collect state and federal paid unemployment like laid off private sector employees rather than continuing to draw down our county reserves.

Nobody, me included, wants to see people laid off from their jobs. But we need to preserve taxpayer paid county reserves for the future when we will need them to return to normal. Real leadership is needed from our county commissioners, not their continued imitation of Casper.


Douglas County, Oregon has received the lowest rating for coronavirus preparedness according to a STAT collaboration with the Center on Rural Innovation and Applied XL which ranked each U.S. county for preparedness. The aim was to anticipate which specific areas of the country were most susceptible to the dangers of the pandemic, said Matt Dunne, the executive director of the Center on Rural Innovation. And the data highlights the looming challenges for rural communities, which often have particular vulnerability.


More than half of Oregon’s 1,663 coronavirus deaths are linked to senior care homes.


Most newspaper headlines would have read "Mercy lays off 350 staff." No mention is made of what kind of staff were laid off. Did the lay offs include administrative personnel or was it focused mainly on nurses and technicians?

It wonder how confident Chief Medical Officer Gray made the right decision to lay off people considering Douglas County coronavirus cases have doubled in the past 4 days.

Sanne Godfrey Staff
Sanne Godfrey

It didn't say that, because that wouldn't have been accurate. The impacted 350 FTE equivalent (it's more than that in actual employee numbers) include the leadership team. From CEO, VP through department heads, everyone is participating in a low census efforts to help the bottom line - across the board it's a combination of a salary reduction, hours reduced, as well as taking unpaid time off.


Thanks for clarifying that.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.