Washington hospitals are facing a financial crisis and it’s impacting patient care

SPOKANE, Wash. – Washington hospitals are struggling statewide. 

The Washington State Hospital Association says bed availability and other services are being affected, and now it’s impacting patients. 

Providence describes the situation as “bleak.” Costs are going up, but the hospital is not making any money. 

“I have been in healthcare for nearly 40 years and I have never seen a financial crisis in healthcare the way have currently,” said Susan Stacey, Chief Executive for Providence Inland Northwest. “We are dealing with a workforce shortage and salaries, our wages are higher than ever before – like many industries. And then we also have travelers and temporary staff that are at a significantly increased cost than we’ve had.” 

Stacey says Providence has dealt with these issues since the beginning of the year, but now costs are really adding up. 

An added challenge involves patients who have stayed for long periods of time, but cannot be discharged due to a lack of availability at post-acute care facilities. 

“And just here in Spokane at Sacred Heart and Holy Family, we are close to 100 patients who are sitting in a hospital bed, who do not need hospital-level care,” Stacey said. 

One patient had to wait at the hospital for over a year, just waiting for a bed at another post-care facility. 

“We recently discharged a patient, just a couple weeks ago, who had been in the hospital over 400 days. That’s over a year waiting in the hospital. That’s not only not good for the healthcare system, but it’s really hard for the patient who was stuck in a hospital bed,” Stacey said. 

All of these issues mean that patients needing to go to the emergency room for a non-emergency like a sprained ankle could have to wait hours to receive care. Patients in need of emergency services like a heart attack will not.

Correction: an earlier version of this story stated patients could wait hours for the emergency room but didn’t specify which patients.