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COVID-19: 3 hospitals in Washington state’s Okanogan County ‘stretched to the limit’

Health officials said emergency departments at three small hospitals exceeded their bed capacity multiple times last week because of COVID-19. As a result, people are being asked to only visit the emergency department if it was an emergency. Google Maps

In an eye-opening statement issued last week, health officials in Washington state said emergency departments in Okanogan County’s three critical-access hospitals had exceeded their bed capacity multiple times because of COVID-19.

Sent out on Friday by Okanogan Public Health, the news release said that Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak, Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster and North Valley Hospital in Tonasket had no available beds.

And because of that, health officials were asking people to only visit their respective emergency departments only if it was an emergency.

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“The current COVID-19 surge has stretched resources to the limit and there are no beds available at hospitals elsewhere in Washington state,” said the press release.

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“Patients cannot be transferred and are being cared for in the emergency department.”

The news release continued, saying “there are very few resources or staff to care for incoming patients. Okanogan County Public Health, first responders and hospitals are asking Okanagan County residents to please assess your symptoms and only go to the emergency department in an emergency.”

All three communities are small — Omak, pop. 4,800; Brewster, 2,300; Tonasket, 1,200.

The release said:

  • County hospitals, doctors and nurses are strained to the limit;
  • Wait times at emergency departments are extremely long;
  • Some patients who would normally be admitted to hospital are being cared for in the emergency department;
  • Hospitals are operating under contingency care and are on the verge of moving into crisis standards of care.
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“Crisis standards of care means that there is not enough space, supplies or staff to give the best care to every patient in the hospital,” said the press release.

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“When hospital systems are overwhelmed, decisions must be made about who gets the resources that are available. During crisis standards of care, providers must shift away from maximizing the best care for each patient to maximizing care for the most people.

“This means some patients might not get the lifesaving care they need. When there are too many patients, hospitals need to help as many people as possible.”

Global News contacted one hospital and was told the same conditions that existed Friday were still in effect on Tuesday.

A spokesperson said the hospital’s COVID wing was full, and that the emergency department has been very busy.

The press release ended, asking people to only visit the emergency room for emergencies, to avoid risky behaviours that could result in a trip to the hospital; and to protect yourself from COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public and crowded spaces.

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