LOCAL NEWS

Thurston County ambulances seeing long emergency room wait times

Jul 20, 2021, 4:56 PM | Updated: Jul 23, 2021, 2:20 pm
ambulances, hospitals, crisis standards of care...
The COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center. (File photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(File photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Thurston County ambulances are running into serious delays when they arrive at the hospital — up to 90 minutes to be able to transport patients into emergency rooms.

Kurt Harden, director of Emergency Services for Thurston County, said that up to four ambulances can be waiting in the hospital parking lot at any given time because hospitals are filling up.

The problem has been building for a while, he said, but has really come to a head in the past week — especially during daytime hours. One battalion chief told Harden last week that it was the worst day he had experienced in his 20-year career.

“We talked to the Department of Health, and they have told us this is an issue up and down the I-5 corridor,” Harden said.

Skagit Valley Hospital, other North Sound facilities filling up

Last month, Skagit Regional Health Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Connie Davis told KIRO Radio that Skagit Valley Hospital and other medical centers in Whatcom and Snohomish Counties were at full capacity.

The overflowing emergency rooms are not, however, filling up with COVID patients — though there does appear to be an indirect coronavirus connection. Davis observed that during the nice weather, more people are becoming injured by going out and doing extreme sports.

Harden agreed with this assessment.

“It’s not directly COVID-related, but … it could be that, 2020 was the year we sat at home, maybe people are getting out there and doing more now,” Harden said.

Additionally, some people decided to forego regular screenings and checkups during the pandemic, and are now experiencing heart problems and other issues that may have been less severe or even preventable if caught earlier.

“We’re hearing stories where people deferred or delayed medical treatment, potentially, because of COVID, and … we’re understanding that what they may have had before, it’s gotten worse,” Harden said. “And now they have to go to the emergency department instead of being able to go to their primary care physician.”

Thurston County emergency workers are coming up with strategies to mitigate the issue until hospitals become less crowded. For example, emergency room staff are setting up makeshift beds for patients waiting to be admitted into the hospital. That way, the patients can have access to all of the additional equipment available at a hospital that cannot fit in the back of ambulances.

“They created a little small place where they have four hospital gurney beds, and we have placed one or two EMTs at that location, so that when a transport unit rolls in, they can offload that patient to that gurney,” Harden said. “Then we’ve returned that transport unit back into service, and [the patient is] still receiving EMS and medical care until the emergency department can come out and accept them into that system.”

Ambulance companies in Thurston County are also hiring additional staff and streamlining the training process, so the newcomers can start working sooner.

Harden said they hope to see some improvement from these measures within a month or so.

In the meantime, however, he assured Thurston County residents that they do not worry if they have an emergency. There are enough staff members that paramedics will be at the patient’s side right away — they just may not immediately be able to bring an ambulance or get the patient into the hospital.

Local News

Echo Glen...
Dalton Day

Echo Glen youth detention center, site of recent escape, understaffed, underfunded, report says

A 2018 report indicates that employees of Echo Glen insist that the detention facility is short staffed, and that its counselors are not sufficiently trained.
1 day ago
Washington voting...
Nick Bowman

Washington weighs significant changes to how (and when) it votes in 2022

A trio of proposals related to how Washington conducts its elections could bring dramatic voting changes to the state by the end of the legislative session.
1 day ago
Paine Field 5G...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

5G concerns, fog lead to more cancellations at Paine Field

More Alaska Airlines flights out of Paine Field were cancelled Thursday, citing issues created by the combination of 5G signals and fog.
1 day ago
catalytic converter...
MyNorthwest Staff

Competing proposals for catalytic converter theft crackdown up for Thursday vote

Competing proposals from Democrats and Republicans to crack down on catalytic converter thefts are set for committee votes on Jan. 27.
2 days ago
Gov. Jay Inslee, long-term care tax...
MyNorthwest Staff

Gov. Inslee approves 18-month delay on long-term care tax

The Washington State Senate voted to delay implementation of the new long-term care payroll tax on Wednesday. 
2 days ago
Rideshare companies...
Nick Bowman

Rideshare companies pour millions into PAC ahead of push for Washington ballot initiative

Rideshare companies have poured over $2 million into a new PAC, in what appears to be the precursor for a Washington ballot initiative. 
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Thurston County ambulances seeing long emergency room wait times