While Spokane County isn’t in the COVID-19 crisis mode of North Idaho, health officials warn their strapped facilities are facing increasingly dire situations.
With the fifth wave of COVID-19 pushing weary health care providers to their limits, health officials asked community members to mask up everywhere they go and to get vaccinated.
Spokane hospitals are not rationing critical care, but providers are stretched to their limits taking care of a record number of COVID patients.
“This is very concerning, and we don’t know what’s going to happen down the road,” Dr. David O’Brien, MultiCare’s chief executive in the Inland Northwest, told reporters Friday.
Among the four Spokane hospitals, there are 224 COVID-19 patients being treated for the virus.
All elective procedures have been halted at the four hospitals, and surgical staff have been diverted to crowded emergency rooms, intensive care units and COVID wards.
Wait times are long in emergency rooms, and patients needing higher levels of care from rural surrounding areas are being put on wait lists.
“Everybody in the ICU on a ventilator is not vaccinated,” said Peg Currie, chief executive of Providence Spokane hospitals. “This is a preventable disease.”
COVID patients on ventilators are not surviving at high rates, and those who do have long roads to recovery.
Dr. David Ward, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente, described his patients with COVID-19 symptoms months after their diagnosis.
Some are still on oxygen; others need inhalers to breathe; some haven’t returned to work because of the brain fog associated with long COVID.
“Collectively, they say, ‘Please tell your patients (considering) getting the vaccines, don’t wait to get the illness like I did,’ ” Ward said.
The most recent surge of COVID patients has had ripple effects on the county’s system of health care.
CHAS health clinics had to pull back its community testing offerings due to staff shortages and the time it is taking providers to take care of much sicker patients in urgent care and primary care clinics.
CHAS is offering patients at-home, mail-in testing for COVID-19 to keep staff treating patients with more acute needs.
Interim Health Officer Dr. Francisco Velázquez said the health district is working on a community-based testing site with the Department of Health in an attempt to take some of the pressure off local providers.
Local hospitals are flexing staff and boarding patients in hallways or different parts of the hospital while they wait for an emergency room or ICU bed.
MultiCare Deaconess and Valley hospitals’ ICUs are full, O’Brien said. So far, the hospitals haven’t expanded those ICUs into other areas due to staffing challenges.
Providence has put in requests for more staff, but none has arrived.
“The big message here is, we’re holding our own, but we’re stretched,” O’Brien told reporters Friday.
Hospital and health providers asked community members to wear masks indoors and outdoors in crowded settings, and to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.
They also recommended avoiding potential superspreader events. Currie encouraged the public to be cautious in attending big events like fairs, football games or weddings.
“If you do choose to go to an event indoors or outdoors, please mask up,” she said.
Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District reported 358 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and four additional deaths.
There have been 782 deaths due to the virus in Spokane County residents.
There are 225 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane .
The Panhandle Health District confirmed 153 COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths.
There are 112 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.