Hospitals preparing for crisis standards of care, plead for Navy ship

The Washington State Hospital Association says the number of coronavirus cases is growing so quickly hospitals will soon run out of capacity and supplies.

When that happens all hospitals will switch from an individual standard of care, where everyone gets care, to a crisis standard of care, or triage. The patients most likely to survive will get help first.

“I want to be really clear, this should not happen. This should not happen in America, it’s immoral,” said Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association.

"If you had more patients who needed care than you had ventilators, you would look at the whole group of patients and determine who has the best chance of survival and that's who gets the ventilators. The patients who don't get one, with the disease, are almost certain to die."

Sauer says the region would move around patients between hospitals and when capacity is reached they go into crisis standard together.

Gov. Jay Inslee has asked the federal government for the U.S. Navy Hospital ship, USNS Mercy, to be docked in Seattle. It has 1,000 beds, 12 operating rooms, CT scanners.

It would be used to treat non-COVID-19 patients like someone who had a heart attack or was in a car accident, explained Sauer. She says local doctors with Navy experience would work with the Navy to come up with the plan for the ship. She believes it would be staffed with some sailors from Naval Base Kitsap.

While pop-up hospitals like the one set up on a Shoreline soccer field will help with capacity, they don’t come with staff and supplies. The Navy hospital ship arrives fully equipped.

To know hospitals are on track to reach crisis standard if the feds don’t send more equipment and supplies -- is hard for Sauer to comprehend.

She says it's been discussed for a mass casualty incident like an earthquake, not a virus.

“It’s been tied to the notion of an earthquake. You would have 5,000 people who need care in the space of an hour. How do you determine what happens in that case? It is not acceptable for this to happen in something that’s evolving,” said Sauer. “We see it coming.”

She says it is not too late. She hopes the federal government well release the stockpile of supplies, including ventilators, and send the USNS Mercy.