Oregon hospitals gear up for solar eclipse

Solar eclipse
Some Oregon hospitals expect ER visits to increase by 20% during the weekend of the eclipse. (Getty/kdshutterman)

More than 1 million people are expected to visit Oregon for the full solar eclipse next week, and hospitals across the state are preparing for a potential influx of patients.

St. Charles Health System, a four-hospital network in the central part of the state, for instance, will put its emergency plan in place beginning Aug. 16, as it expects the local population to increase by 280,000 people, more than double its normal population, according to an article from The Oregonian.

The health system has cancelled elective surgeries and hired 60 traveling nurses to meet the expected increase in patient volume. It has also stocked up on emergency supplies like snakebite venom.

The system’s clinic in Madras, Oregon, a small 25-bed facility, is expected to be “ground zero” of the influx, according to the article. The organization expects a six-fold increase in patients in the emergency room and have increased staffing accordingly. The facility will also not perform nonemergency C-sections or induce labor during the eclipse.

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Salem Health, which also operates in the region, is anticipating 20% more ER visits than normal during the eclipse, according to an article from Oregon Public Broadcasting. Staff at its hospitals are also prepared for the worst case scenarios.

“With as many visitors in the area, the possibility of a mass casualty event is heightened,” Wayne McFarlin, emergency preparedness administrator, told the publication.

Even simply viewing a solar eclipse is dangerous, according to Medscape Medical News. Without appropriate eye protection, people looking directly at it could “scorch” their eyes, causing potentially serious damage.