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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee calls on Idaho politicians to take action on COVID-19 during visit to crowded Spokane hospital

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 29, 2021

Gov. Jay Inslee talks to those attending the Washington State Building & Construction Trades Council Convention at the Historic Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane on Wednesday, the same day he visited Sacred Heart Medical Center.  (COLIN TIERNAN/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Gov. Jay Inslee talks to those attending the Washington State Building & Construction Trades Council Convention at the Historic Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane on Wednesday, the same day he visited Sacred Heart Medical Center. (COLIN TIERNAN/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Gov. Jay Inslee called on Idaho politicians to do more to combat COVID-19 after he visited Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane on Wednesday and was told about the delay of thousands of procedures and surgeries.

Spokane hospitals are treating more patients from Idaho than they typically would, and the governor noted the neighboring state’s low vaccination rate. Idaho has no statewide mask mandate nor vaccination mandate.

“It is frustrating that politicians in Idaho are not helping,” Inslee said.

Inslee spoke with front-line providers at Sacred Heart, who said they are treating younger and younger COVID patients. He learned of a person in their 20s who died there recently of the virus.

Sacred Heart and Holy Family Hospital have canceled more than 2,000 surgeries and procedures that were deemed nonurgent in order to divert medical teams to COVID units. Some of these procedures were for patients in severe pain or with cancerous tumors that needed to be removed, according to medical providers and patients.

Not getting vaccinated, Inslee said, “is a threat to our ability to get medical care.”

Inslee said he was inspired by the health care providers he met who continue to go to work despite the crushing reality of caring for some patients who probably didn’t need to die.

“I come away with a concern and frustration that we are in a situation that does not have to be this way; we have the power to prevent these preventable deaths,” Inslee said.

The governor said he is worried about the delay in medical care and treatment for Spokane County residents, as well as residents statewide, with the COVID hospitalizations creating staffing challenges for hospitals.

Inslee asked for federal assistance, but state Department of Health officials said Wednesday they don’t know if they will receive staffing support.

In the meantime, the governor acknowledged the statewide staffing shortage that will take longer to fix.

“Ultimately, we have to increase the supply of nurses because otherwise we have hospitals fighting each other over a limited nursing supply, so the ultimate answer is to get more people into this profession,” Inslee said.

He said he would look at potential solutions to increase the statewide nursing capacity in the next legislative session.

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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