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

Washington state officials painted a dire image of hospitals in our state as workers and beds are overwhelmed due to a COVID-19 surge.

Although COVID deaths are not rising at alarming rates, health officials say infections and hospitalizations are the worst it has ever been in the pandemic.

A lot of surgeries are being delayed at hospitals across the state.  One doctor at Overlake Medical Center says those people waiting in the wings unable to get care are sitting there like ticking time bombs.

"There are people who will die within a day or two if they don’t have surgery," Dr. Todd Freudenberger with Overlake Medical Center said.

Freudenberger says this may be yet another wave of COVID, but he says it’s different.

"This time around it’s much different, patients are much sicker, we are losing much more of them for sure," Freudenberger said.

He says patients coming into the hospital are also not just sicker but younger.

Around 95% of the more than 1,460 patients hospitalized as of Wednesday across the state are unvaccinated.

"We’ve added another 1,100 patients in hospitals in just the past 30 days," Dr. Steve Mitchell with Harborview Medical Center Emergency Department said.  "This patient who was severely ill, unfortunately, she actually did pass away in this small hospital when after eight hours of trying we were unable to find an ICU bed," Dr. Mitchell said.

Behind hospital walls, those stories aren’t just headlines, they are personal.

"It’s quite horrible, we lose them and we don’t have much time to grieve or to decompress as a group," Dr. Freudenberger said.

He is worried about his staff and health care workers in general who have yet to process the trauma as they try to stay strong for patients fighting for their lives.

"They know how sick they are getting and they are fearful for their lives, we have patients who are in tears and they feel like they let their families down," Dr. Freudenberger said.

Mitchell says the stats are hard to measure exactly right now but he believes more deaths are happening unrelated to COVID because of the hospitals being so strained 

The state Department of Health held a press conference on Wednesday urging vaccinations. 

As of Wednesday, 72.4% of Washingtonians 12 and up has received at least one dose.

Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said the key message is that the pandemic is raging with the Delta variant ravaging our state.

He says everyone in the state needs to play a role to turn the corner.

In the last few weeks, vaccination rates have gone up slightly but health officials say it is still not enough with 1.9 million Washingtonians not vaccinated.

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