‘Every day, we see more patients than the day before’: Staffing, COVID surge challenge Spokane hospitals

SPOKANE, Wash. — Some patients are sleeping in the emergency department for several nights, as the staff at Providence hospitals in Spokane prioritize patient care amid another wave of COVID cases. 

As of Wednesday morning, 115 people are receiving care for COVID in all of the Spokane County hospitals. 

Intensive Care Units at Providence hospitals in Spokane are at capacity. 

“That means in our critical care areas, our beds-to-staffing ratio is full,” said Providence Health Communications Director Beth Hegde. “That does notmean we cannot care for our sickest patients. It means that we are triaging and prioritizing who needs which type of critical care. We work to ensure that the sickest patients can have critical care beds and that includes leaving some capacity for those who are admitted with cardiac issues, accidents, transplants and more.” 

Providence still wants people to come to the hospital if they’re sick. 

We currently have a very high census of patients – that includes patients with COVID and without,” Hegde said, “We are anticipating that we will have a significant increase in patients with COVID based on what we are seeing in our west side hospitals and also across the Midwest and East Coast.” 

Hegde points out that the most significant issue they’re dealing with is staffing. Cases are surging in Spokane overall, and hospital employees are among those getting sick or exposed. 

“The people who work here are also our community members and they are not immune to what everyone else is experiencing,” Hegde said. “Our caregivers are parents dealing with remote learning, closed daycares, sick family members. Some are sick themselves. The community crisis we are in impacts us all – including how we can staff our hospitals and doctor’s offices.” 

Providence also worries about a rise in pediatric patients. Right now, fewer than 10 children are receiving care for COVID, but Hegde said that number is slowly growing.  

“We are seeing higher pediatric hospitalizations on the west side of the state and we are in communication with those hospitals daily as we are one of only two pediatric hospitals in the state,” she said. “We are watching this very carefully as it is a significant concern if we start to see severe pediatric cases growing.” 

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