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Harborview will divert patients with non-urgent needs as overcrowding strains the system

There are more than 560 inpatients, putting the hospital at more than 130% of its licensed capacity of 413.

SEATTLE — Harborview Medical Center will no longer accept patients that aren't in need of urgent care in order to help address its overcrowding issue, hospital leadership announced Thursday.

Patients not in need of urgent care will be diverted to other area hospitals, at least temporarily, CEO Sommer Kleweno Walley said. This is to ensure Harborview maintains capacity as the only trauma center in Washington state for level 1 care.

It was an "incredibly difficult decision," she added.

The hospital will divert patients at least through the weekend and possibly longer.

As of Thursday, there were more than 560 inpatients, putting the hospital at more than 130% of its licensed capacity of 413. 

Currently, more than 100 patients no longer require hospitalization and are waiting to be discharged to a long-term care facilities, such as a rehabilitation facility. 

Dr. Steven Mitchell, medical director of Harborview's emergency department, said patients in need of urgent care are having to wait longer to be admitted -- sometimes hours. 

Less urgent care includes issues such as abdominal pain or someone's breathing "isn't quite right," Mitchell said. Those issues that don't reach the threshold of being life-threatening.

Harborview is working with its partners and other healthcare leaders in the state as they divert patients to other facilities, Mitchell said. 

Harborview is one of many hospitals that have announced a capacity issue.

In July, the Washington State Hospital Association said patients are taking up beds they no longer need as they wait to be transferred. Providence-Swedish said as many as 20% of their patients no longer require hospitalization. 

In February, the UW Medicine system warned that capacity was virtually maxed out across all four campuses.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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