‘It is a gut wrenching decision’: Washington scrambles to keep state out of crisis care levels

SPOKANE, Wash. — Washington hasn’t reached crisis care levels, yet. The state’s strapped, but it’s doing what it can to stay afloat. Health leaders don’t want to have to start rationing care like North Idaho.

“It is an absolute, gut-wrenching decision for anyone who works in health care to have to make. It is terrible. We do not want that to happen here,” said the CEO for the Washington State Hospital Association Cassie Sauer.

Everyone is watching history unfold as Idaho declares crisis care levels for the first time in the state. This means they may not be able to care for everyone who needs it. Care is rationed based on need and resources. Two things Washington is trying to get a handle on, as well.

Hospitals are strapped. On Tuesday, there were 1,674 patients hospitalized with COVID. More than 250 of them were on ventilators which are up to 34-percent from last week.

“We are working as hard as we can to not get to crisis standards here,” Sauer said.

Providence had 305 COVID patients in its care on Tuesday, according to Peg Currie, the Chief Operating Officer for Providence Health Care. Elective surgeries have already been paused which means people who don’t have Covid can’t get critical care.

“You see these lists of people that are wanting care from your place, and you have to make them wait,” Currie said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

“People hear cancelation of non-urgent procedures, and they think facelifts. That is not what we’re talking about here,” Sauer said. “We’re talking about very serious care that people need.”

Washington hospitals have been helping Idaho throughout the Pandemic, but as Washington’s resources dwindle, that may not be possible in the future.

“If someone from Idaho is needing a place and all the hospitals are equally full, the hospital leaders have not committed they will take out of state patients,” Sauer said.

If Washington has to go to crisis care, it will be a state or regional decision. Single hospitals won’t go into crisis alone. To lessen the chances of this happening, they’re hoping to expand monoclonal antibody treatment to pharmacies and doctor’s offices. They want to keep people out of the hospital, and that’s a proven treatment if administered early on.

The state is also working to discharge patients more efficiently. Right now, about 10-percent of hospital beds are being used by people who aren’t sick anymore. In the critical staffing and bed shortages, they need as many resources as possible.

RELATED: ‘It’s not ideal care’: Idaho health officials describe dire situations that led them to implement crisis standards of care

RELATED: Spokane health experts more concerned about hospital staffing than capacity

RELATED: Vaccine Information HQ