The three hospital systems in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene says they’re postponing some non-emergency procedures to preserve staff time and beds for more acute cases.
That news comes as the number of Covid patients reaches levels not seen since the peak of the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the Spokane Regional Health District reported 116 patients receiving care for Covid, up five from the day before, and 277 new confirmed cases.
Providence officials say the intensive care units in their Spokane and Colville hospitals are all nearly or completely full, with many of the patients Covid positive. Spokeswoman Ariana Lake says the hospitals are operating according to the same surge plans they followed last fall, with Covid patients restricted to specific floors and units.
She says the demographic mix of patients has changed. Many of those receiving care are young or middle-aged adults. The vast majority of them are unvaccinated.
MultiCare is also experiencing high case volumes. At the system’s two Spokane hospitals, spokesman Kevin Maloney says the staff has expanded its Covid units to meet the volume of patients. He says MultiCare has postponed some, but not all, elective surgeries and will continue to evaluate the need to do that on a daily basis.
He says the increase in patient volume is not entirely due to COVID patients. He says people often have more accidents this time of year as they enjoy more of the outdoors. And Maloney says patients are catching up on important procedures they had to put off earlier because of the pandemic.
At Kootenai Health, Jeremy Evans, the hospital’s chief regional operations officer, reported the hospital is caring for 69 Covid-positive patients, including 28, or more than 40%, in the critical care unit.
“That number was much lower in the past, maybe 20%, 25%, something like that would have been critical care-level patients,” he said.
He says this surge of patients came on quicker than last winter and the patients are more ill than during previous waves.
Evans says the hospital could use more nurses, but is competing against other hospitals in the region for the available workforce. For now, he says, doctors, nurses and other staff are working extra shifts and it’s taking its toll.
“We’ve been running at a pretty fast pace for the last year-and-a-half. As the Covid volumes diminished a little bit earlier this year, what we found was our non-Covid volumes really took off. That could be a combination of things, from population growth to folks who may have delayed their care during some of the Covid experience. So our volumes have been pretty strong and high for a long period of time,” he said.
Evans says Kootenai Health will not follow Washington’s lead and require health care workers to be vaccinated against Covid. He says the staff vaccination rate is between 50-52% percent, which is higher than the Kootenai County population in general, around 40%.