Harborview off basic life support divert, back to accepting all patients

Aug 19, 2022, 5:36 PM


Nurse Nick Brideau (L), from the ICU COVID unit, and Nurse Karen Hayes administer care to a patient who has just been transferred to the acute care COVID unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

After closing to all but the most urgent patients for the last week, Harborview Medical Center is back to business as usual.

The hospital was forced to go into basic life support divert August 11, when it hit 130% capacity. There were 150 more patients at Harborview than the hospital was built to handle, with patients being cared for in hallways and conference rooms.

Basic life support divert meant that when first responders arrived at 911 calls, they would take those patients whose vital signs were stable and who did not have an immediately life-threatening condition to other hospitals in the vicinity of Harborview, such as Swedish First Hill or Virginia Mason.

Harborview Medical Center 30% over capacity, will stop accepting non-emergency patients

Senior Associate Administrator Mark Taylor said that early Thursday afternoon, the patient load had dropped enough that they were able to safely open things back up.

“We, as of 1 p.m., actually returned to … full operational status,” he told KIRO Newsradio on Thursday.

However, this does not mean that Harborview is out of the woods, he cautioned. The hospital is still at about 115% capacity and, therefore, still using certain surge measures, such as sending some of those patients who are able to be moved to other nearby hospitals.

The issues that caused Harborview to go into basic life support divert in the first place are still ongoing — not just for Harborview, but for hospitals around the country.

“Right now, we’re going to remain off-divert,” Taylor said. “It’s possible that we could see ourselves in this situation again because that primary problem has not been resolved yet.”

That problem is that patients who are ready for discharge are having trouble getting a spot in a nursing home. Nursing homes are struggling to take new patients because, like hospitals, they are suffering from large pandemic staffing shortages.

“We still have the ongoing challenge of difficult-to-discharge patients — those patients that are really looking for placement in long-term care facilities. Those patients are still here,” Taylor said.

Other factors causing Harborview to fill up beyond its capacity are the typical rise in summer sports injuries, people who delayed routine care during the pandemic and who are now having health problems, and the ongoing staffing shortages at the hospital.

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Harborview off basic life support divert, back to accepting all patients