Hospital capacity OK for now, but new problem looms

VIDEO: Hospital capacity OK for now, but new problem looms

In a sign physical distancing is working to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Washington, health officials say, right now, hospitals have enough beds.

"We still have capacities at our hospitals, we are not overwhelmed. That is very different from what you are seeing in New York," said Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association.

That’s in large part because hospitals have been planning for a surge and canceled elective surgeries before the virus ramped up.

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Regarding the supply of ventilators, state officials say there are 1,000 intensive care unit ventilators in Washington hospitals and around 50 ventilators in ambulatory surgical facilities.

The state requested 1,000 ventilators from the Strategic National Stockpile and received 500.

The state also bought 500 ventilators.

Cassie Sauer, of the hospital association, said the big concern now is finding interim facilities for COVID-19 patients with mild or moderate symptoms who don't need full hospital care but who also aren't ready to go home.

She estimates that statewide, at least several hundred patients who could be discharged remain hospitalized, taking up beds.

"It would be absolutely tragic if the system were overwhelmed by people who don't need hospital care," Sauer said. "That would be totally ironic if we did all this work to create hospital capacity and then overwhelm the system because we can't get people out."

The U.S. Army will have a temporary field hospital ready at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in a few days, but it's designed for non-coronavirus patients.

"The field hospital has said they will not take COVID. If they would take mild or moderate COVID, we could use it this afternoon," Sauer said.

A similar field hospital in New York City that was also expected to take non-COVID patients now will accept patients with the disease.

Sauer hopes that change happens in Seattle, too.