One of the well-known Tri-Cities business leaders and philanthropists spent two days in the emergency room of a northern Idaho hospital waiting for a bed in an intensive care unit, his family says .

Bob Ferguson was on vacation near Sandpoint when he suffered a serious stroke, his daughters, Cathie Kolinski of Chicago and Colleen Ferguson Lowry of Portland, said.

Ferguson, 88, was deputy assistant secretary for nuclear programs at the Department of Energy and managing director of the Washington Public Power Supply System. He then founded and developed companies in the Tri-Cities region focused on nuclear waste management, environmental consulting and nuclear safety training.

After a stroke on August 25, he was first taken to a small hospital in Idaho that lacked a neurosurgeon to provide the care he needed.

There the search began, scouring the Northwest, including the Tri-Cities, in search of a hospital with an available intensive care bed.

Within hours, he was flown by helicopter to a larger hospital in Idaho, where his wait for an intensive care bed continued, his daughters said.

The experience has left them frustrated and angry with people who do not get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Intensive care beds were filled with COVID-19 patients, almost all of whom were not vaccinated against COVID, their daughters were told.

The Ferguson family weren’t the only ones struggling due to other people’s decision not to get the shot, Kolinski said.

The surgeries were canceled because so many COVID patients required staff time and hospital resources.

Ferguson’s daughters ended up helping him care for, feed, wash and shave him, while overworked hospital staff attended to other patients.

They also made sure his pain medication was given and monitored his condition, helping staff find out that he had an undiagnosed infection.

The ICU doctors treated him in the emergency room.

After two days he was transferred to an intensive care bed and soon after to an acute care unit.

The rooms for one patient now contained two beds.

There was no nurse call button for Ferguson, the second patient in the room, and only one monitor for both patients.

Her roommate was ready to be released for treatment at a rehabilitation center, but he was still waiting after two and a half weeks when Ferguson left the hospital.

Her daughters arranged a private plane for a medical evacuation on September 6 to Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, affiliated with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

His daughters have said he faces a difficult and long road to recovery.

Busier hospitals

Among the touching moments at the Idaho hospital were members of the Idaho National Guard walking past Ferguson’s bedroom door, Lowry said. They had been called in to help the overwhelmed hospital staff.

One low point was one night when they watched from a hospital window at anti-vaccine protests outside, Kolinski said.

Since Ferguson received treatment in northern Idaho, hospitals there have become increasingly busy.

On September 7, a day after Ferguson was flown to Chicago, Idaho activated its provision of crisis care standards in the upstate because there were more coronavirus patients than the hospitals could not handle it.

It allows hospitals to decide who receives treatment and limited resources – not just for COVID but for all conditions – based on factors such as their age and whether their job is vital to providing care during the pandemic.

Ferguson and Tri-Cities

Upon retirement, Ferguson wrote books on the country’s nuclear waste issues and co-founded Clean Up Hanford Now, a Tri-Cities nonprofit that advocates for speeding up the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reserve and promote a new clean energy mission for the site.

He and two other Tri-Cities business leaders successfully sued the federal government in 2010, forcing it to retake the review of Yucca Mountain, Nevada’s permits for the disposal of highly wasteful weapons. radioactive materials from the country and the commercial nuclear fuel used.

Earlier this year, he donated $ 500,000 to Washington State University Tri-Cities to staff a professorship in energy and environment, the first step in the development of a future institute at the university. to analyze the best ways to develop clean energy production in the region and to educate workers for the industry.

Previously, the Ferguson family donated $ 100,000 to launch the William R. Wiley Scholarship for WSU Tri-Cities Students.

He was also a major donor to the Ferguson Education Center, a Montessori school, which opened in 2020 at Christ the King Catholic School in Richland. It was named in honor of his late wife, Katie Ferguson.


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