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Help arrives in Spokane to aid in COVID-19 fight at hospitals, long-term care settings

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 15, 2021

Providence Sacred Heart Hospital is seen from the north side at street level on April 26, 2020 in Spokane, Wash.   (Libby Kamrowski)
Providence Sacred Heart Hospital is seen from the north side at street level on April 26, 2020 in Spokane, Wash.  (Libby Kamrowski)

Outside staffing help has begun to arrive in Spokane County after a long wait and an ongoing fifth wave of COVID-19 sent case rates soaring this fall.

Avalon Care Center at Northpointe will open a COVID decompression unit with the staffing support that could admit up to 22 COVID-19 patients.

Avalon partnered with the Department of Health to open the unit, which has dedicated staffing from the department’s contractor. This unit will likely stay open for 60 days, depending on demand.

Long-term care facilities continue to see outbreaks in the county, with 31 facilities reporting 701 COVID-19 total cases, provisional data from the Spokane Regional Health District shows.

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center also received federal staffing resources this week, after requesting federal resources through the Department of Health.

A team of 20 people is set to arrive this weekend from the Department of Defense, including physicians, respiratory therapists and nurses.

MultiCare has also requested federal staffing support to help most of the hospitals in its system.

As of Thursday, the department has 10 requests from health care and EMS systems for about 740 staff in 14 locations statewide.

There are two ways long-term care facilities and hospitals can access staffing help from the state.

First, the Department of Health contracted with the General Services Administration to find a contract agency to supply more staff to health care settings. ACI Federal is the contracting agency working with the department to connect to settings and regions of the state that need staff most.

Second, hospitals or long-term care facilities can submit direct federal support requests through the department.

As of Wednesday, only two hospitals had asked for direct federal resources, Andrew Rose, COVID-19 incident commander at the department, told reporters. The federal resource requests require facilities to follow a specific process from the federal government.

Rose said a multiagency group and the department are working to finalize a process to set up priorities to dictate where resources go.

Rose said the focus has been on where the biggest benefit is across the system, “really starting to focus on our regional hospitals, where our smaller, rural, critical access hospitals decompress to and freeing up the chain (of referral) throughout the system.”

While resources are limited nationwide due to staffing shortages, State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said they will be focused in central and Eastern Washington.

Here’s a look at local numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 308 new cases on Friday and two additional deaths.

There are 880 deaths due to the virus in Spokane County residents.

There are 151 COVID patients hospitalized in the county.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 328 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and six additional deaths.

There have been 540 deaths due to COVID-19 in Panhandle residents.

There are 132 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story 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.

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