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No strain on Spokane hospitals due to COVID-19, but preps for possible surge underway

The daily occupancy rate at many Spokane area hospitals is lower right now, but healthcare leaders are preparing for the possibility of a surge in coronavirus cases.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Though cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to rise in the Spokane area, hospitals say they have not been hit hard yet. But healthcare leaders are preparing for a possible surge in cases.

Spokespersons with both Providence Health Care and MultiCare said measures put in place early on have helped mitigate potential strain on the hospitals.

Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz also said on Friday that the increase in COVID-19 cases in Spokane County is not taxing local hospitals.

Providence has dedicated two urgent care locations and a pediatric clinic to screen individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, along with increasing capacity for virtual care visits.

MultiCare has also established three respiratory clinics across the region that are by appointment only, as opposed to walk-in visits. They offer COVID-19 testing an additional testing for respiratory issues based on the provider's assessment. 

The clinics could play a role in the reduced emergency room volumes at MultiCare hospitals, said spokesperson Kevin Maloney. 

The daily occupancy rate at many area hospitals is lower right now, which Providence spokesperson Jennifer Semenza said is partially due to the postponed of all non-urgent and non-emergency surgeries. 

MultiCare hospitals have also seen relatively low volumes, which could attributed to social distancing or testing available at the drive-thru Spokane County Fairgrounds site, said spokesperson Kevin Maloney. 

Based on the current volumes at hospitals, Maloney said they are well-staffed across the region. He added that MultiCare is prepared for a potential surge in patient volume related to COVID-19.

Semenza said Providence continues to fill positions as possible and works with various agencies to fill temporary staffing needs.

Lutz said healthcare providers from across the region are meeting on Friday to discuss preparations for a possible surge in coronavirus cases. 

“Today there’s going to be a meeting of the various healthcare organizations to look at how we collectively can work towards preparation around a surge if and when we see more individuals who have to be evaluated and hospitalized," he said. 

RELATED: Spokane Co. Health Officer: Don't expect normal life to return by Easter

How are hospitals dealing with PPE shortages? 

Semenza said Providence's supply chain is working to obtain personal protective equipment for healthcare workers amid a nationwide shortage by placing large orders with suppliers and applying for supplies from the National Emergency stockpile. 

As part of its strategy, Providence is also keeping standard masks and respirators that are not visibly soiled so Medline can reprocess them in line with FDA standards.

Medline has been able to reprocess about half of what is collected, Semenza said. 

"After proper decontamination protocols are followed, the products are as safe and functional as brand new ones," she wrote in a statement. 

RELATED: Groups make masks amid shortage, but Spokane hospitals can't accept them

Maloney said MultiCare has been working to conserve PPE for months.

He added that MultiCare is seeking donations of unopened PPE supplies, including masks, gloves and gowns. These can be taken to the loading dock at each of our local hospitals or handed to our security staff on Monday through Friday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The items will be checked for quality before use. 

RELATED: ‘This is going to be a long haul’: Batch of protective equipment meets only some of Washington's need

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