Local hospitals remain ready to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients and aren’t concerned about the kinds of capacity issues that have led to overwhelmed health care facilities in some coronivirus hot spots.
Forty people in Spokane County have required hospitalization due to the respiratory virus since the first reported cases here in mid-March, and 15 people with COVID-19 are currently hospitalized at MultiCare and Providence hospitals in the Spokane area.
Those hospitals have room for more patients.
Sacred Heart Medical Center, the second-largest hospital in Washington, alone has nearly 600 hospital beds that could be used to treat patients who do not need intensive care, which often includes the use of a ventilator.
Colin Mulvany - The Spokesman-Review
Dan Getz, chief medical officer at Sacred Heart and Holy Family, said they have the ability to staff approximately 80 intensive care unit beds if needed.
About 20% of people who test positive for COVID-19 will require hospitalization, and Getz said about 5% require treatment in an intensive care unit.
Getz told reporters on Wednesday that Sacred Heart has the capacity to treat all emergent care needs, COVID-related or not.
Providence has divided its emergency department into those people with COVID-related symptoms and those with everything else in order to dispel potential fears about the virus, Getz said.
“We have plenty of space and capacity right now,” Getz said. “It’s important to note that we really do want people who have emergent conditions to come to the hospital. Throughout the community, we’ve heard reports of people delaying emergent care because they are worried they will get COVID-19 in their hospital.”
The majority of COVID-19 patients requiring treatment at the hospital can get it outside the intensive care unit, in a regular hospital room, isolated from others. They usually require oxygen, which is administered through a nasal cannula that feeds oxygen through the nose or with an oxygen mask that goes over the nose and mouth.
Patients with COVID-19 who are in the intensive care unit are assigned a designated nurse. They also require more treatment, more access to medications and more than 6 liters of oxygen. But not every COVID-19 case in the ICU requires intubation, or the use of a ventilator. At Providence, COVID-19 patients in the ICU get their own room.
Respiratory therapists monitor a patient’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Wade Scoles, a respiratory therapist and coordinator of the Providence simulation lab, demonstrated how a mechanical ventilator worked for reporters on Wednesday.
“There’s been a lot of talk about how important ventilators are because they are essentially breathing for patients who can’t breathe on their own,” Scoles said. “But it’s equally important to have trained, skilled medical providers, nurses and respiratory therapists who know how to operate them.”
Providence has a team of anesthesiologists performing all intubations for COVID-19 patients at their hospitals, Getz said.
Patients connected to a ventilator are evaluated and their levels of oxygen are fine-tuned to their individual needs, Getz said. Ventilators will alarm if certain levels are out of alignment with the patient’s needs or the patient’s condition changes, Scoles said.
Getz declined to say how many ventilators Providence has or how many the region will share collectively, if needed. But he stressed that he is confident in the local supply.
“I am very positive that we have – and feel very strongly that, with what we have now, that we can deal with the worst-case scenario in our community,” Getz said.
Getz said those who require a ventilator usually need it for about two weeks. He said older patients with multiple health problems have tended to require ventilators.
Patients with COVID-19 are discharged when they do not need oxygen or ventilator support and can recover at home. In Spokane County, 13 people have died due to COVID-19 and 12 local hospital patients have recovered and been discharged.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.