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Respiratory viruses challenge Spokane's hospitals heading into Christmas week

Courtesy of Providence Health
Providence's Sacred Heart Children's Hospital has had its hands full caring for children with RSV.

Hospital officials say, after a couple of quiet flu seasons, this is the most difficult in years.

This may be the busiest flu season since 2017 for Spokane’s hospitals.

“Flu has been really, really hard and we’ve been really, really busy because of it. Our ERs are packed," said Greg Repetti, the president of MultiCare's Inland Northwest hospitals.

Influenza, combined with an unusually high number of children struggling with RSV (respiratory syncytial, or sin-SISH-ull, virus) and Covid are putting a big strain on both of the city’s hospital systems.

“Flu seasons are tough because you can’t really grade them until they’re completed, but, prior to 2017, you’d probably have to go back until 2009 to see when we’ve been this busy with flu," said Dr. Dan Getz, the chief medical officer for Providence Health in Spokane.

"Covid is still an issue, but thankfully not driving infections as flu and RSV. I feel like, from the Covid standpoint, health care has a pretty good handle on how to take care of Covid patients and we have some innovations that are making that disease much easier to treat," he said.

Forty Washington residents, including three children, have died from the flu so far this season and nine Idahoans, including four elderly residents from the Panhandle.

“We’re fortunate in that we haven’t had to turn away any patients from our own facility and transfer them out. But there have been cases where sick kids from across the state that we really want to get in but we’re just so full, we weren’t able to accommodate and, thankfully, the state has assisted in helping those children find other places to receive care," Getz said.

The good news, Repetti says, is that there's evidence the worst of it is approaching or already here.

"It looks like it’s maybe starting to crest on the west side, but we always tend to lag," he said.

Health care officials urge people who haven’t been vaccinated for flu to get a shot. They say this year’s vaccine seems to be a good match for the strain of flu in the community.

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.