'Unprecedented:' Harborview Medical Center says hospital is 30% over capacity with patients

Harborview Medical Center officials on Thursday said the hospital is over capacity by about 150 patients and will have to stop admitting patients with less acute conditions.

According to UW Medicine officials, Harborview Medical Center has 560 inpatients when the facility's licensed capacity is 413.

Officials said more than 100 patients no longer need to be hospitalized and are just waiting to be discharged to a post-acute care facility.

"Given the unique position Harborview has in the community as the level 1 trauma center, as the disaster center, and here for all critical illness, we had to make a very difficult decision today - one that has been weighing on our minds as UW Medicine leadership," said Harborview Medical Center CEO Sommer Kleweno Walley. "In order to ensure that we maintain our critical capacity for any type of trauma that is needed in our region and for any type of critical illness, we have moved to going on what we call 'basic life support divert.' Patients not in need of more urgent care will be needed to be taken care of and brought by ambulances to other hospitals surrounding Harborview in the area. Harborview for this time period will no longer be able to take care of the less acute patients in order to maintain our capacity."

Dr. Steve Mitchell, acting medical director of Harborview Medical Center, said we are seeing impacts across the entire healthcare continuum.

"What has been happening is that when ambulances arrive at Emergency Departments, they are unable to offload patients into beds inside the Emergency Department and they're having to wait for longer and longer periods of time - sometimes for hours - which is then impacting their ability to serve their communities for emergencies when they occur."

Harborview officials said they will continue to accept patients with life-threatening injuries.

The hospital will stop admitting patients with ‘less acute conditions’ at least through the weekend. That may be extended after a re-evaluation. 

Kleweno Walley said she had spoken to other nearby hospitals in Seattle, including Swedish First Hill, Swedish Cherry Hill and Virginia Mason, which all said they could "surge" to accommodate additional patients in the meantime.

This is a developing story and will be updated.