Hospitals delay non-emergency surgeries as COVID infections rise in Washington

New COVID-19 infections are pushing hospitals around Washington state to their limits, say officials. The large number of people filling bed spaces means some facilities are postponing elective surgeries.

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said patients could be waiting more than a month. UW Medicine told Q13 News it will evaluate patient’s needs on a case-by-case basis, and safety will be taken into account to delay procedures.

Officials at the Washington State Department of Health report the 14-day hospitalization rate has not been higher since January 2020.

Harborview says it needs capacity in the emergency room and intensive care for what is anticipated to come should healthcare workers safely care for patients. Those patients awaiting non-urgent procedures at Harborview may be postponed until September 19.

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At the heart of the rising rates, say health officials, are those people who have not yet been vaccinated. This far into the pandemic, the Washington State Hospital Association says the economics have changed. 

Cassie Sauer from WSHA said the costs to treat the most severe cases can be extremely expensive, adding some insurance companies will shift the burden to members who chose not to be vaccinated. 

"It’s a preventable disease," Sauer said.

What’s more, UW Medicine announced plans to bolster its recruitment efforts all to ensure staffing levels are adequate to treat a growing number of ill patients. 


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