Rise in COVID hospitalizations in rural areas leaving few, if any, beds for other patients

Medical officials say hospitalizations keep ticking up across Washington state, particularly among the unvaccinated and in rural areas.

As of Tuesday, 1,674 people are currently hospitalized in the state, which is a 7% increase from last week. Around 251 people are on ventilators, marking a 34% increase.

Cassie Sauer with the Washington Hospital Association said some of those on ventilators will not make it.

Outside Harborview Medical Center, people like Jason Taylor, dropping his sister off for a medical issue, are keeping a close eye on hospitals bursting at the seams.

"Everybody doesn’t have to agree on everything, but we have to take a step back," Taylor said.

Taylor says people should take a step back and do what is best for the community and not just the individual.

On Tuesday, medical staff on the frontlines sounded the alarm about hospital shortages, especially in rural areas. 

"If you come with a stroke or cardiac event, there is not a bed out there for you. You might be waiting for an ambulance," Julie Petersen with Kittitas Valley Healthcare said.

RELATED: Mask fatigue growing as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations climb in Washington

Petersen says her hospital in Ellensburg is the only one in the county.

She says the situation is not just a COVID emergency, but it’s a problem for everyone in her area who may need any type of urgent medical care. 

Peggy Currie with Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane echoed the same concerns.

"The number of people who have been waiting for emergency care at our hospitals have skyrocketed in the last couple of weeks," Currie said.

As for COVID patients, Currie says what she is witnessing is heartbreaking.

"There are people on oxygen leaned over gasping for breath, they aren’t on ventilators yet," Currie said.

In places like Kittitas County, Petersen say the vaccination rate is less than 50% and doctors say there is a direct correlation between low vaccination rates and high hospitalizations. Petersen is asking people in her county who attended big gatherings over the Labor Day weekend to get tested.

Petersen named several events including the Ellensburg rodeo, the fair, parade and a concert at the Gorge.

From rural to urban areas, doctors are also growing alarmed with the number of pregnant women hospitalized with COVID.

"I’m seeing risks for pregnant individuals that I’ve never seen with any other event in pregnancy for instance 15 times increase risk of death if you are pregnant with COVID," Dr. Linda Eckert with UW Harborview Medical Center said.

RELATED: Washington hospitals seeing more pregnant COVID patients

The plea from health officials continues to be about vaccines. They say vaccines are safe and effective and that message is also the same for pregnant women. Dr. Eckert said more studies are showing that vaccines do not cause miscarriages or lead to uncommon side effects that would pose a danger to pregnant women.

On Tuesday, Q13 News spoke to people who are vaccinated but are still concerned about what’s happening at hospitals.

 Bill Husie for example said although he is vaccinated, he is worried it will not be enough with many others unwilling to get the shot.

"It’s like a match on a barrel of gunpowder," Husie said.

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