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Washington hospital officials wonder about life after emergency declaration is removed

TVW screenshot
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, seen here earlier during the pandemic, hasn't yet announced when he'll lift the Covid emergency declaration.

Pandemic-era rules have helped facilities handle high caseloads.

Washington’s indoor Covid mask mandate will end on Saturday. Could the end of the state’s emergency declaration be far behind?

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown has announced she’ll lift her state’s emergency on April 1.

Washington hospital officials are curious how rescinding the emergency will affect some of the exemptions they’ve received to operate during the pandemic.

For example, Taya Briley from the Washington State Hospital Association says the declaration has given rural hospitals the authority to suspend one important rule. Normally they can house up to 25 patients. She says it has allowed them to exceed that when their options for transporting patients to larger hospitals were limited.

“We want to make sure that as these states of emergencies and waivers are lifted that either there is some flexibility that continues to be provided or laws that are modified to allow increased flexibility in the future," she said.

One benefit of the pandemic, Briley says, is that smaller hospitals have built new technological links to larger hospitals, giving them access to doctors in specialty units and allowing them to enhance the care they give to their own patients.

Also, she says the exemptions have allowed them to offer more care at home.

“This is different than home health care. This is more intensive with nurses and therapists and lab services available to hospital patients actually in their homes with the same level of monitoring and care," she said.

That has kept patients out of hospitals at times when their beds have been full.

Governor Jay Inslee has not committed to a date for ending Washington’s statewide emergency. Neither has Idaho Governor Brad Little. A bill moving through the statehouse in Boise proposes to allow the legislature to end the emergency declaration instead.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.