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Covid Surge Likely Not The End Of High Hospitalization Numbers As Delays In Care Continue

Spokane Regional Health District

Hospitals in Spokane County are delaying all but emergency care due to the massive influx of COVID-19 patients.

Delays in surgeries and a lack of preventative care during the pandemic could impact the community’s long-term health.

When the current surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations go down, Denise Smart, the WSU College of Nursing master’s degree program director, says she doesn’t expect healthcare workers’ jobs to get easier.

She said the high patient load may continue because many people have missed preventative care over the last two years.

“Doctor’s offices, clinics can only see so many patients at a time,” she said. “Even if things open up, it’s still going to be ‘how do you fit them in?’”

According to a study from the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, one out of three American adults did not seek healthcare when they needed it, and 4 out of 10 adults with chronic conditions in the U.S. did not seek healthcare. People of color were also disproportionately likely to have missed care as well.

Smart says both routine, and preventive care are important to the health of a community.

“Two months can make the difference between life and death for an early cancer diagnosis,” she says.

She says in Spokane County, those disparities could have been bigger, because of lack of broadband and computer access can make it difficult to use telehealth in rural communities.

This story was corrected on October 5, 2021 to include that lack of broadbands and computers lead to less telehealth access. 

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.
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