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Spokane hospitals adjust, delay surgery and procedure schedules due to influx of COVID-19 patients

Hospitals like Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center are having to delay elective surgeries to save room for COVID-19 cases.  (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Some elective surgeries will be postponed as Spokane hospitals brace for the next wave of COVID-19 patients.

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital will reschedule procedures in an effort to conserve critical care beds and adequate staffing.

“We will review each surgery and patient need on a case-by-case basis and work with patients to reschedule their procedure,” Providence said in a statement.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are at an all-time high in Spokane County, with 127 patients receiving treatment. Of those patients, 94 of them are Spokane County residents.

Hospital systems across the state are coordinating care of COVID and non-COVID patients.

MultiCare hospitals in the Spokane area have also pulled back on some procedures to preserve capacity.

“Surgeons have been asked to use their best clinical judgment to determine whether something can be delayed in the best interest of patient care,” a statement from MultiCare said. “For patients that are impacted by these decisions, we are in regular communication.”

Not all medical procedures or surgeries can be delayed, but some outpatient surgeries require no hospital stays and can be rescheduled. Spokane County Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez pointed to his own shoulder surgery this year, which was postponed and rescheduled.

“Elective surgeries are those that are not immediately required, and they look at every case individually to see what can be postponed,” Velázquez said.

When Gov. Jay Inslee ordered hospitals to put off elective surgeries in the spring, it included joint replacements, cataract or lens surgeries, non-urgent cardiac procedures and some interventional radiology services.

Spokane hospitals are not the only ones statewide to postpone or delay certain surgeries and procedures. State Health Officer Kathy Lofy said hospitals are making changes to their surgery schedules in order to accommodate the most hospitalized COVID-19 patients the state has seen thus far in the pandemic.

Lofy told reporters that the number of Washington residents hospitalized each day exceeds levels seen in spring when the first wave of the virus hit Western Washington.

There are 1,077 COVID-19 patients in hospitals statewide, a number that continues to increase. Lofy said the state is also seeing more COVID-19 deaths as well.

“In early September (we saw) around five deaths per day and that’s steadily climbed to somewhere around 12 deaths per day, so unfortunately we are starting to see more deaths reported in this third wave of illness,” Lofy said.

The Department of Health is leaving the decision of whether or not to cancel elective procedures to make more room in hospitals up to the facilities themselves, and Velázquez said health care facilities are looking at any and all options to continue to deliver care without overwhelming the system.

If there is to be a reprieve for hospitals from Inslee’s restrictions in mid-November, they will be seen in the county’s numbers likely in the next week or two, Velázquez said. If people gathered at Thanksgiving, however, an increase in cases, and then hospitalizations, could happen soon, he said.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.