Although Spokane County is not in COVID-19 crisis mode in northern Idaho, health officials are warning their shutdown facilities are facing increasingly dire situations.
With the fifth wave of COVID-19 pushing tired healthcare providers to their limits, health officials have asked community members to mask themselves wherever they go and get vaccinated.
Spokane hospitals are not yet rationing intensive care, but providers are being pushed to their limits to take care of the largest number of COVID patients.
“This is very worrying, and we don’t know what’s going to happen on the road,” Dr David O’Brien, managing director of MultiCare in the Northwest Interior, told reporters on Friday.
Among Spokane’s four hospitals, 224 COVID-19 patients are being treated for the virus.
All elective procedures have been halted at all four hospitals and surgical staff have been redirected to overcrowded emergency rooms, intensive care units and COVID departments.
Wait times are long in emergency rooms, and patients requiring higher levels of care in surrounding rural areas are placed on waiting lists.
“Not everyone in intensive care on a ventilator is vaccinated,” said Peg Currie, executive director of Providence Spokane Hospitals. “It is a preventable disease. “
COVID patients on ventilators do not survive at high rates, and those with long paths to recovery.
Dr David Ward, family doctor at Kaiser Permanente, described his patients with symptoms of COVID-19 months after their diagnosis.
Some are still on oxygen; others need inhalers to breathe; some have not returned to work due to brain fog associated with the long COVID.
“Together they say, ‘Please tell your patients (considering) to get vaccinated, don’t wait to get the disease like I did,'” Ward said.
The most recent wave of COVID patients has had a ripple effect across the county’s health system.
CHAS health clinics have had to withdraw their community testing offers due to understaffing and the time it takes for providers to care for much sicker patients in emergency and primary care clinics .
CHAS is now offering patients home and mail-in testing for COVID-19 to enable staff to treat patients with more acute needs.
Acting health official Dr Francisco Velázquez said the health district was working on a community testing site with the health ministry to alleviate some of the pressure on local providers.
Local hospitals flex the staff and pick up patients from hallways or different parts of the hospital while they wait for an emergency room or intensive care bed.
The intensive care units at MultiCare Deaconess and Valley hospitals are full, O’Brien said. So far, hospitals have not expanded these intensive care units to other areas due to staffing issues.
Providence asked for more personnel, but none arrived.
“The big message here is that we’re holding on, but we’re stretched out,” O’Brien told reporters on Friday.
Hospital and health care providers have asked community members to wear masks indoors and outdoors in crowded places, and to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.
They also recommended avoiding potential super-spreader events. Currie encouraged the public to be careful when attending big events like fairs, football games, or weddings.
“If you choose to go to an indoor or outdoor event, please mask yourself,” she said.
Here is an overview of the local numbers:
The Spokane Regional Health District reported 358 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths on Friday.
There have been 782 deaths from the virus among residents of Spokane County.
There are 225 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane.
The Panhandle Health District has confirmed 153 cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths.
There are 112 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.