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'It's not sustainable': Overcrowding problems persist at Harborview Medical Center

The region's only Level 1 trauma center has 413 licensed beds, but has been seeing more than 500 patients daily.

SEATTLE — Harborview Medical Center is consistently facing overcrowding problems.

On Wednesday, Harborview CEO Sommer Kleweno Walley said the region's only Level 1 trauma center has 413 licensed beds, but in the last eight months, has seen more than 500 patients daily.

"This is not sustainable because what happens is you're taking Harborview away from its ability to be a disaster control center, you're taking it away from its ability to be the mass casualty place," Walley said. "You're taking away our ability to handle the car wrecks and mass casualties because we no longer have any space."

In August, Harborview had 562 patients. Of those, 152 of them did not need to be at the hospital are were waiting to be transferred to a different facility for post-acute care, such as rehabilitation.

Walley said there are multiple factors that are contributing to the overcrowding. The main factors include staffing shortages across health care facilities, patients who no longer required care at Harborview and funding.

Walley said there are beds available at the post-acute care facilities, but the problem comes down to staffing due to high labor expenses.

This summer, Harborview had to start turning away some patients who were not in need of urgent care to other area hospitals. This helped alleviate overcrowding but also negatively impacted hospital funding. Harborview wasn't receiving as many payments for the shorter, easier procedures, according to Walley.

It's not only staff at Harborview who are feeling the strains of this issue. 

Walley said this impacts patient care at Harborview, staff and patients at surrounding hospitals and first responders who now have longer response times.

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