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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sacred Heart, Holy Family stop elective surgeries as hospitals face spike in COVID-19 patients

Facing a new onslaught of patients with COVID-19, Providence Health Care officials announced Tuesday that all non-emergency surgeries and procedures will be halted at Sacred Heart Medical Center and Holy Family Hospital.

The pause is “effective immediately,” according to a Providence news release.

“We realize that all procedures and surgeries are very important to patients and we will work with each patient on a case-by-case basis to reschedule and provide necessary care,” Providence officials said in a news release.

As of Tuesday, there are 116 COVID-19 patients in Spokane hospitals, and there are 69 patients with the virus at Kootenai Health.

Hospitalizations have tripled in Spokane County in a month and doubled in the Panhandle in the past two weeks.

Non-emergency surgeries include procedures like joint replacements, but teams at hospitals in the region are making decisions on which procedures to delay on a case-by-case basis depending on bed and staff availability.

Emergency departments are still open locally, and patients who need emergency treatment should still seek it.

Hospitalizations have spiked across the nation, largely caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus infecting unvaccinated people.

The Inland Northwest has seen a surge in hospitalizations, but unlike previously, when the virus hit the state in waves, the surge is happening all at once.

In Washington, hospitals were already near capacity this summer taking care of non-COVID patients. But with the current surge, facilities are having to prioritize emergency care and expand room for COVID patients. Transferring patients for care, not just for the virus, is taking much longer due to the surge in COVID patients.

The decision marks the third time elective procedures have been halted at Providence hospitals in Spokane as a result of COVID-19 and follows similar moves by Multicare and Kootenai Health.

On Tuesday, MultiCare was continuing to analyze patient volumes to see if they needed to reschedule non-emergency procedures. Kootenai Health announced earlier this week that they were postponing non-emergency and elective procedures.

Kootenai Health also announced new visitor restrictions in light of the current surge in COVID-19 cases. Patients will be allowed one visitor per day in inpatient areas and the emergency department, unless the patient has COVID-19. More visitors will be permitted in end of life situations.

Kootenai Health has also expanded its testing hours to accommodate the growing demand. Beginning Friday, the testing center will operate from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

Hospital and public health leaders are asking those who have not been vaccinated to get their shots to prevent severe disease and hospitalization should they get the virus.

The COVID-19 vaccines that are available are still effective against the delta variant, particularly at preventing severe disease and hospitalization. Public health officials are also recommending that everyone wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, to prevent further spread of the virus.

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District reported 277 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and one additional death was confirmed.

There have been 694 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.

There are 116 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane County.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 106 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths on Tuesday.

There are 72 Panhandle residents hospitalized for the virus.

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.