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Elective surgeries on track to resume soon at Sacred Heart thanks to DOD assistance

The Department of Defense recently sent 20 new caregivers to aid Sacred Heart in their treatment of patients with COVID-19.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Sacred Heart Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Getz is reporting that elective surgeries are on track to resume soon at the hospital in Spokane after they were paused a little over one month ago. 

There is a backlog of postponed elective surgeries, so the hospital will have to play catch-up, Dr. Getz said during a press conference with Providence and the Department of Defense on Wednesday.  

"We're hopeful by the beginning of November we'll be back to roughly 80% of normal operations for getting those surgeries done," Dr.Getz said.

Dr. Getz added that the hospital is getting anesthesiologists back into operating rooms as they organize a more controlled system for COVID care.

Providence recently welcomed 20 physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists from the DOD to relieve some of the strain Sacred Heart caregivers have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new batch of caregivers are expected to be onsite at Sacred Heart Medical Center for approximately one month.

According to a press release from Providence Health Care, Sacred Heart is just the 11th site in the U.S. that the DOD has deployed aid to assist with the pandemic response.

Providence Health Care Executive Peg Currie kicked off the press conference on Wednesday by expressing her gratitude to the DOD for helping Sacred Heart how relieved staff is to have more support in their treatment of COVID-19 patients.

"As you might imagine, the resources that are needed to care for these patients are extraordinary," Currie said at the conference. "Our staff are exhausted both physically and mentally. This has been a very, very trying time."

Alongside Currie were Commander Matthew Behil of the Medical Response Team, Commander and Emergency Physician Christine DeForest, Lieutenant and Intensive Care Physician Garrett Harp and Sacred Heart Emergency Management Manager Darrell Ruby.

Behil stated that there are currently 23 active duty military medical personnel at Sacred Heart. The group come from four different U.S. Navy bases.

"Thank you so much for having us here," Behil said. "We are delighted to be here in Spokane in support of the local teams as we do our very best to work together and get through this as one."

Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, DeForest detailed the scope of the support team. She explained that the medical response team includes two respiratory specialists and 14 nurses working alongside the Sacred Heart nurses and ICU.

Harp, from Oregon, added that many patients in the ICU are COVID positive and critically ill. He also praised Sacred Heart for their "top notch" care.

When asked about primary concerns, Ruby stated that ICU space has been the greatest challenge the hospital has faced in treating COVID patients.

"Getting this team here has been great," Ruby said. "Physicians are great. They're kind of the frosting on the cake, but the nurses and the R.T.s, that's kind of the cake and that's what helps us get some of those people back to the O.R. and getting more of those compelling surgeries done."

Ruby added later that the vast majority of COVID patients at Sacred Heart are unvaccinated. They typically range from ages 30 to 50 and have no pre-existing conditions of poor health.

If Providence still needs help after the DOD team's one month is up, they can request them to stay longer.

The Department of Defense has also provided Kootenai Health, North Idaho's largest hospital, with a 20-person medical team that includes 14 nurses, four physicians and two respiratory therapists.