Hospitals still struggling during omicron surge

WASHINGTON — The Washington State Hospital Association said Thursday more than 2,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state and more than 30 patients are dying every day.

“Our hospitals continue to be incredibly full,” said Dr. Michael Myint of MultiCare.

He said Auburn Medical Center hit a capacity high of 170 percent, with surgical areas turned into makeshift places for patient beds.

Last week, MultiCare’s Puget Sound hospitals had a total of 400 COVID-19 inpatients, twice its delta peak.

This week, those numbers dropped a bit.

“That’s been very helpful for us to catch our breath,” Myint said.

Beginning Friday, about 100 Washington National Guard members will arrive at a handful of hospitals to do non-clinical work like taking patients to different labs.

They’ll also help in testing facilities.

Many health care workers are exhausted, and their unions are calling on state legislators to set minimum staffing requirements for hospitals.

“We need safe staffing standards because the current pace of work is unsustainable,” nurse Stephanie Wahlgren told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Nurse Kelli Johnson told legislators she recently had to wait several minutes for help after requesting assistance with a critically ill patient.

“This could mean life, death or permanent changes to someone’s quality of life. These are risks associated with inadequate staffing,” Johnson said.

Hospital administrators say staffing ratios in California made things worse.

They’re calling for flexibility and a state commitment to retain current nurses and train new ones.

“We absolutely agree that more needs to be done for the health care workforce, but we strongly disagree that this bill is the path,” said Cassie Sauer of the Washington State Hospital Association.