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Delayed procedures resume in Spokane hospitals as COVID-19 cases continue to decline

Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Hospitals have begun calling patients back for operations and procedures that were delayed as a result of the spike in COVID-19 cases, sometimes more than once.

Providence hospitals in Spokane delayed more than 600 operations and procedures due to the omicron wave and thousands due to the delta wave last fall. Many orthopedic procedures, like knee and hip replacements or spine surgeries have been delayed more than once due to COVID-19.

With the long list of procedures to reschedule, hospital officials expect to be busy for a while.

“I think we’re going to see high hospital rates for months and months and months to come,” Dr. Dan Getz, chief medical officer at Providence hospitals in Spokane, told reporters Monday.

Many people have delayed primary care or routine check-ups and tests, like colonoscopies, during the pandemic, Getz said, which in addition to backlogged surgeries and procedures, means that hospitals likely will remain full despite the number of COVID patients continuing to decline.

As of Feb. 17, there were 1,391 patients hospitalized statewide with COVID-19, a significant decline from the height of the omicron wave, when more than 2,000 patients were hospitalized statewide with the virus.

Last Friday, there were 156 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane hospitals.

Eastern Washington peaked later than Western Washington during the omicron wave. As a result, it could be a few weeks before the county is in a better situation, Getz said.

He said he is optimistic that in a month when the mask mandate is lifted in Washington, the Inland Northwest will be in a better position.

That said, he encouraged everyone to get vaccinated who hasn’t already, including those who have had COVID-19.

“Get vaccinated and that will help us get back to normal care delivery,” Getz said.

In Spokane County, 65% of the population 5 years old and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

While hospitals are opening up their visitation policies again, wearing a mask still is required in health care settings including hospitals and clinics. Getz said this is important to protect patients and staff from the virus, especially because it is possible for a fully vaccinated person to carry and transmit COVID-19.

“I don’t see any end in sight to our current masking procedures in hospitals and clinics,” Getz said.

Local health districts and the Department of Health did not publish updated case-count, hospitalization or death data on Monday due to the Presidents Day holiday.

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.