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Washington hospitals pact helps avoid being overrun by COVID patients

Nurses Karen Hayes (L) and Nurse Nick Brideau administer care to a patient in the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center on May 7, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

An innovative pact among hospitals in Washington state has helped prevent the health care system from becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.

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Coronavirus patients may have ended up in hallways or temporary tent structures if not for the agreement among hospitals in Washington to share the load.

“We never got the headlines that you saw in other parts of the country that showed patients stacked up out on the sidewalk or all through the hallways without being able to get care, or just being sent home,” said Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer.

She says hospitals in Washington were the first to have this type of pact or agreement to transfer patients from hospitals that were overwhelmed to those that had room.

“We are the first state to have an agreement among all the hospital leaders in the state that no individual hospital would ever reach crisis standards alone,” Sauer said. “And without that kind of agreement, there is no question that hospitals in the state would have been overrun.”

“The hospital in Yakima, hospital in Wenatchee, absolutely could not care for all their patients,” she added.

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Sauer says the number of hospitalized COVID patients has dropped, and hospitals statewide do have enough beds right now. No hospital in Washington is under strain with too many patients at this time.

According to a tracker built and maintained by the New York Times, Washington state’s intensive care units (ICU) are at 71% occupancy. The national average is 73%. The numbers come from a weekly dataset released by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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