Harborview Medical Center over 130% capacity; no longer admitting non-emergency patients

SEATTLE — Harborview Medical Center leadership says they are over 130% capacity as of Thursday afternoon. Their CEO, Sommer Kleweno Walley, says the hospital can usually hold up to 413 patients; however, 563 are being treated inside. Because of the rise in patients and lack of staff to accommodate, Walley says the hospital has decided to not take in any non-emergency patients for a moment.

“It could mean something like ‘I’m having appendicitis or I’m having abdominal pain or my breathing isn’t quite right.’ But it doesn’t reach the threshold of being considered life-threatening,” medical director Dr. Steve Mitchell said.

“And one of the factors in making the decision this morning really is at this number of patients, we cannot expect our providers and our staff to undergo that kind of pressure and at the same time, when you are trying to work in settings that aren’t typical health care settings,” Walley said.

According to Walley, management has talked with leadership at other neighboring hospitals about this. She says those hospitals have told them they will take in more non-emergency patients to help out for the time being.

The reason for the increase is credited to several factors: more trauma patients coming in because of more accidents during the summer, patients putting off their treatments, etc. But Mitchell says that ultimately, the pandemic has created a problem that will last for some time.

“There’s a 10-mile backup caused by the pandemic and all of health care is working to clear that backup,” Mitchell said.

“Every floor often has a couple of hallway patients. We turned our family/visitor waiting room into a patients’ room,” Meredith Boenish, a nurse at Harborview Medical, said.

Boenish claims that right now, the workload and patient count are tougher now than during the hard days of the pandemic.

“The patients are crying to me that they are just not getting good enough care. And it’s kind of all on you as the bedside staff to take the brunt of that. And there is nothing you can do about it,” Boenish said.

The plan at the moment is to limit non-emergency patients through the weekend, but Walley says that decision could change every hour. And if issues like this continue, both Boenish and leadership are concerned about how much more the medical field can take.

“I really hope that things change, but I won’t forever at a place where I feel like I’m doing a bad job,” Boenish said.

Walley says the hospital has notified the county and the state on the matter. Both are working to help mitigate the situation.