Washington hospitals seeing more pregnant COVID patients

The latest and most troubling numbers of the COVID-19 surge across Washington have health officials pleading for people to get vaccinated

Washington State Hospital Association hosted a virtual briefing on Monday where health officials said 1,570 people statewide were hospitalized with COVID-19.

"This is an enormous stress in the healthcare system to have this many patients with a single diagnosis. This doesn’t happen," said Cassie Sauer, CEO of Washington State Hospital Association.

Dr. Chris Dale is the chief medical officer for acute care at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. He said the Seattle metro area is experiencing an uptick in COVID cases. 

RELATED: Hospitals overwhelmed, health care workers burned out as COVID rages on

"We got down to single-digit COVID patients, believe it or not, about four to six weeks ago. Now we’re flirting with about 100 COVID patients in-house and other systems, like to the south, have even more. And it’s back almost as bad as it’s ever been," said Dale. 

With hospitals filling up with COVID patients, it leaves less room available for others and increases the risk of coronavirus exposure. MultiCare in Pierce County is setting up tents outside of Tacoma General and Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup for extra space.

"That is largely because we need to keep people out of our emergency room waiting rooms because we’re starting to have people that are kind of in a window of treatment that are having to be in those rooms and we need to keep them safe," said Dr. David Carlson, chief physician officer for MultiCare.

Dr. Tanya Sorenson, the executive medical director for women’s health at Swedish Health Services, said the surge in COVID-19 Delta variant cases is causing pregnant women to get sick. She said they are seeing more ICU admissions, premature births, and maternal deaths.

RELATED: Health experts urge pregnant women to get vaccinated for COVID-19 right away

"It’s heartbreaking to spend my day in the ICU taking care of women who are pregnant and may not make it and maybe leave their babies motherless," said Sorenson.

Dale confirmed four pregnant women were in the ICU at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. 

Sorenson said only 40% of pregnant women are vaccinated. She explained this is the first time in the pandemic where they’re seeing pregnant women get really sick, mostly among those who are unvaccinated. 

"When our patients get really sick, it’s pretty common to need to deliver them and it’s usually by an emergency C-section, and sometimes even in the intensive care unit. And the reason for that is either the babies are getting distressed as their mothers are so ill, or that we need to deliver the baby to help improve the mother’s breathing," said Sorenson.

Another reason health leaders are sounding the alarm for people to get vaccinated is because of a staffing shortage.

"This is the same crew of people who have been caring for people for a year and a half now with COVID. With the staffing shortages nationwide, Swedish is suffering just as everyone else is," said Dale. "We’re kind of burning them out by asking them to work more shifts, longer hours, care for more patients in ways that sometimes are a bit frustrating to caregivers because they see this as a preventable sort of pandemic."

One encouraging note from Monday’s virtual discussion: health leaders said during this latest surge in COVID case numbers, they are also seeing vaccine numbers increase threefold. 

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