LOCAL NEWS

St. Michael ER in Bremerton still closed, no reopening date in sight

Aug 4, 2021, 6:51 PM | Updated: Aug 5, 2021, 1:38 pm
hospital, covid, St. Michael...
Aster Mekonen carries a trash bag during her cleaning shift at Harborview Medical Center on August 20, 2020 in Seattle. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Five days after it first shut its doors due to a staffing shortage, the emergency department at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton remains closed.

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health told KIRO Radio in a statement that there was no estimated date to reopen the ER, which closed last Friday evening.

In the meantime, patients are asked to go to the ER of St. Michael in Silverdale, about 7 miles away. An ambulance is stationed at the Bremerton location to convey anyone who goes there by mistake to Silverdale at no cost.

Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association, said that this way, patients and staff can be under one roof of a nearby facility that is bigger and can accommodate more people.

Thurston County ambulances seeing long emergency room wait times

“I think what they’re hoping to do is consolidate staff in a place where they can take more people, and they can share the work across a larger group of staff,” Sauer said.

Sauer said the problem is by no means being felt only in Bremerton; across the state of Washington and the entire country, hospitals are being overwhelmed by a large influx of patients at the same time that there is an exodus of health care workers. People are also having trouble getting spots in long-term care facilities to recover after hospitalization.

In Thurston County, ambulances bringing patients to emergency rooms have had to wait up to 90 minutes in the parking lot because there are many patients and too-few workers.

“Hospitals are full, quite full, right now. … But staffing is a limiting factor,” Sauer said. “It’s not space. We don’t really need to open more wards — most hospitals have some beds that they can use, but they don’t have the staff for them.”

Throughout the summer, people have been seeking hospital care in droves as an indirect result of the pandemic. Those who put off routine screenings during the past year are now discovering problems that may have been mitigated or prevented entirely if caught earlier. Additionally, with the warm weather and the desire to get outside after being quarantined, people are having hiking, swimming, and other sports accidents. The hot weather itself has also contributed to increases in strokes and other heat-related illnesses.

Now, with the delta variant causing a fifth wave, COVID hospitalizations are increasing and adding to the burden.

Simultaneously, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff are taking leave or saying goodbye to the profession altogether. For some, Sauer says, it has to do with staying home so they will not expose an unvaccinated child or other vulnerable family member to coronavirus. Others are taking time off to care for relatives falling into that category of patients who decided to forego routine care and are now in need of help.

But for many, it is severe burnout after what was the most stressful period of their careers.

“This has been exhausting work to care for COVID patients over the last year and a half, and it’s been really demoralizing to be seeing COVID patients coming in right now. … We are treating an unvaccinated population in the ICU,” Sauer said.

Nearly every patient being hospitalized for COVID-19 is unvaccinated, and Sauer said that for medical professionals, it is heartbreaking to see people sick and dying alone, without family around them, when it all would likely have been preventable.

“I think that’s really contributing to the burnout,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this incredibly hard physical and emotional labor, when people didn’t make the choice that is a clear choice to keep themselves healthy?'”

When asked how the public can help the hardworking doctors and nurses, Sauer had one simple request: Get vaccinated.

“I think the biggest support that people could give to them right now is to not get COVID,” she said. “I mean, that’s what’s really burning people out right now. … Get vaccinated. It works. It’s safe.”

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health declined requests for an interview about the St. Michael closure.

Local News

ballot, napkin vote, approval voting...
Nick Bowman

Group seeking to change how Seattle voting works builds large early war chest

A push to dramatically alter the way Seattle votes in primary elections is already getting significant financial support in its early days.
20 hours ago
Bellevue...
KIRO 7 News Staff

77-year-old Bellevue woman stops home intruder in landslide neighborhood

Thieves hit the neighborhood impacted by the Bellevue landslide but didn’t get away with much, thanks to one brave 77-year-old woman.
2 days ago
national guard...
Stephanie Klein

National Guard arrives to Harborview Medical Center to help with COVID testing

A Seattle hospital official says the arrival of 10 army soldiers on Friday is a huge help.
3 days ago
End restrictions...
Nick Bowman

UW modelers: State might finally be able to end ‘major restrictions’ once omicron wave passes

Modelers at UW's Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation believe that we could be nearing the end stages of major virus-related restrictions. 
3 days ago
Long term care insurance...
Nicole Jennings

Analyst’s advice for Washingtonians who got private long-term care insurance

An Association of Washington Business analyst explains the outlook for private long-term care insurance now that the WA Cares tax will likely be delayed.
3 days ago
COVID tests...
MyNorthwest Staff

Washington households can order at-home rapid COVID tests at no cost

The state Department of Health is going live with its portal to order free at-home COVID tests that ship directly to households.
3 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, […]
St. Michael ER in Bremerton still closed, no reopening date in sight