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'We still feel like we're in crisis': Spokane hospitals struggling with record number of patients

Providence's Chief Medical Officer says they are beginning to make "heart-wrenching" decisions on patient care.

WASHINGTON, USA — It was a double-edged sword at the weekly Washington State Hospital Association COVID-19 briefing on Monday. While hospitalizations are beginning to decline, that means a rise in deaths might be on the way. 

Washington State Hospital Association President and Chief Executive Officer Cassie Saur said that this week there were 1,504 COVID-19 patients hospitalized compared to the over 1,600 in the week prior. She said in previous COVID-19 waves first there was a peak in cases, then came a peak in hospitalizations and finally a peak in deaths. According to the Washington State Hospital Association, there were 30 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours. 

Sauer added that "Idaho is really challenging" for the situation in Eastern Washington. Idaho's Panhandle was the first region where the state declared crisis standards of care, quickly followed by the rest of the Idaho

Providence Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Getz said things are continuing to worsen inside Eastern Washington hospitals as they continue to care for a surge in patients that has halted non-emergency surgeries and stretched their staff to a breaking point.

"Although we're not practicing crisis standards of care on this side of the state, we still feel like we're in crisis," Dr. Getz said.

Providence is one of several hospitals in the Spokane area that has begun canceling non-emergency surgeries, a decision Dr. Getz called "heart-wrenching" when the patients have serious medical concerns. Dr. Getz said that the majority of those surgeries were for cancer patients and spinal surgeries that help relive intense pain.    

He continued by saying that he wasn't sure they "could continue to care for more and more members of the community" if people chose to not follow state mandates. 

In a press conference last week, Dr. Getz slammed visitors of the Spokane County Interstate Fair saying it made "zero sense" for people to go to super spreader events during a pandemic.   

On Monday, Dr. Getz said that the surge in deaths usually follows around two to three weeks following the peak in hospitalizations. He also painted a picture of inside the COVID-19 wings, with a majority of patients on ventilators likely never going to recover. Those patients are mostly unvaccinated.