WENATCHEE — Central Washington Hospital had 19 coronavirus patients Wednesday, its highest daily count since the pandemic began. The previous peak was 14 patients on April 14.
Seventeen of Wednesday’s patients were North Central Washington residents: Four from Chelan County, three from Douglas, six from Grant and four from Okanogan, said Dr. Jason Lake, chief medical officer-elect of Confluence Health, which runs the hospital.
“I’ve heard in the community that there’s a perception a lot of these patients are coming from outside our region,” Lake said. “... These are our friends and our neighbors and people from our communities who are getting admitted to our hospital and requiring that care.”
Central Washington Hospital will take patients from other counties if they have adequate capacity to treat them, Lake said.
“The predominant reason is they don’t have enough hospital beds where they’re at,” he said. “So when their hospitals become full and don’t have the room to admit anybody, they start looking around for other hospitals that have that capability. So if they call us and we do, we say ‘yes.’”
Seven of the 19 patients Wednesday were in the ICU and four were on ventilators.
Grant County reported its seventh death Thursday. Chelan and Douglas counties haven’t recorded a new death since May.
The hospital has beds and ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients in critical condition, its main constraint is staffing. They often require a dedicated nurse and some who are ventilated also need to be rolled onto their stomach to help their lungs.
“The real increase in support comes when sometimes these ventilated patients have to be turned over to their stomach in a process called proning. And that’s just a very labor-intensive process. It takes about six people to help turn these patients over and they do that for a period of hours and then they turn them back,” Lake said. “So you can imagine if you have many patients in the ICU requiring this proning procedure, there can be hours filled up in a day where these prone teams just go from patient to patient helping to turn these people over.”
The hospital believes it could stretch its ICU capacity to 25, but even that would require shuffling nurses from other departments.
“The staff it would take to get to that level would really require some significant dialing back of elected procedures. So that’s kind of our max capacity but that would come with significant implications and delaying other types of care we could provide,” Lake said.
Confluence, along with other healthcare facilities in the region, halted most of its non-urgent services in mid-March to free up staff and reduce the virus transmission. It restarted many of those services as the virus’ first wave lessened.
“If the trend of COVID care we need to provide continues to increase, we’ll be left with no choice but to decrease some of the other services that we provide again,” Lake said.