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Rural Washington hospitals prepare for surge in COVID-19 patients as holidays approach

PeaceHealth, which runs a number of hospitals in smaller communities, started stockpiling personal protective equipment in the summer months.

SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash. — Hospitals have been planning for months for an imminent spike in COVID-19 cases heading into the holiday season.

"PeaceHealth and many other hospitals spent the time acquiring and stockpiling as much PPE as possible,” said Chuck Prosper, chief executive of the PeaceHealth Northwest Network.

Skagit Valley Health and PeaceHealth both have hospitals in rural areas, which often have only one hospital for an entire region.

"Capacity is a very important question right now,” Prosper said.

Dr. Connie Davis, chief medical officer of Skagit Regional Health, said she was confident in their plan.

"Obviously it does give us concern, but I think right now have a really good plan, it's just a matter of being able to be in lockstep with the demand,” Davis said.

As beds start to fill, planning and preparation come into play for how they can treat patients.

"We have the ability to convert additional spaces in our hospital to really expand the capacity and bring in additional staff to support those beds and the patient care that will be necessary,” Prosper said.

"We are stockpiling as much as we can, we are encouraging our staff to be safe and be careful because our most important resource quite frankly is us, is our people,” Davis said. "We're here for the community, that's our mission, and we need to fulfill it."

Medical professionals want to stress that if you start having symptoms of COVID-19, the emergency room does not need to be your first step.

You can see your primary care doctor, or go to an urgent care clinic, and this frees up space for those that do need emergency medical care.