‘Tough few weeks ahead’ as state’s hospitals continue to struggle with flood of COVID patients

Sep 24, 2021, 5:14 PM | Updated: 5:14 pm
COVID, hospitals...
Hospitals in Washington continue to grapple with staffing shortages and an uptick in COVID patients. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

While Washington’s COVID crisis has begun to stabilize in recent weeks, health officials warn that the state’s hospitals are not quite out of the woods yet.

Idaho crisis impacts Washington hospitals’ ability to care for patients

According to the latest modeling from the state Department of Health, the rate of COVID prevalence remains at an all-time high, sitting at 0.94%, which works out to roughly 1 in every 106 Washingtonians. Before that, the highest that rate had climbed was in August 2021, when it was at 0.64%, or 1 in every 156 state residents.

The seven-day rolling average for daily COVID-related hospital admissions topped out at 190 in late August, and has since decreased by a small margin to 186. As the state’s Deputy Secretary for its COVID response Lacy Fehrenbach warned on Thursday, “our hospital system is as stressed it’s ever been.”

Fehrenbach also acknowledged that while there has indeed been a “slowdown in growth” statewide, Washington still has a ways to go.

“We hope that continued efforts around masks and vaccinations will lower our disease levels and reduce the number of people being regularly admitted to hospitals, but I think we’re in still for a tough few weeks ahead,” she said.

State epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist further noted in a news release that “our individual choices and behaviors today are going to determine whether or not our friends and families will have full access to health care in the near future, for any medical need, not just COVID.”

How would crisis standards of care be enacted in Washington?

In early September, several hospitals in rural parts of Washington reported that people with strokes and appendicitis have been among those forced to wait for treatment. That’s due in large part to a flood of hospitalizations driven by the delta variant, as well as health care worker staffing shortages.

“If you come in with a stroke, if you come in with a cardiac event, there is not a bed out there for you,” said Julie Petersen, CEO of Kittitas Valley Healthcare in Ellensburg at a recent  Washington State Hospital Association briefing. “And if there is a bed, you might be waiting for an ambulance.”

Gov. Jay Inslee petitioned the Biden administration for help with the state’s hospital staffing crisis earlier this week.

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‘Tough few weeks ahead’ as state’s hospitals continue to struggle with flood of COVID patients