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Harborview Medical Center no longer turning patients away

The hospital is at approximately 115% of its licensed capacity of 413, down from more than 130% earlier in August.

SEATTLE — Harborview Medical Center is again accepting patients it considers non-urgent after reducing the number of inpatients at the facility. 

According to a spokesperson, the hospital is at approximately 115% of its licensed capacity of 413, down from more than 130% earlier in August.

However, the inability to discharge patients waiting to be placed in post-acute care facilities remains an issue.

On Aug. 11, Harborview leadership announced it would no longer accept patients that aren't in need of urgent care in order to address its overcrowding issue. Patients not in need of urgent care were diverted to other area hospitals.

At the time, there were more than 560 inpatients, with more than 100 patients no longer requiring hospitalization and waiting to be discharged to post-acute care facilities, such as rehabilitation facilities. 

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

Earlier this summer, hospital leaders across the state warned of facilities being overcapacity. The biggest factor, like at Harborview, was patients who no longer needed hospitalization taking up beds while they waited to be transferred to long-term care facilities.

Providence-Swedish said at the time that as many as 20% of their patients no longer required hospitalization.  

Understaffing, too, is an area of concern with a decline in healthcare workers.

In early August, an ER nurse concerned over a staffing shortage, told KING 5 the hospital was seeing up to 300 patients a day. Sometimes, there would be 10 patients for every one nurse, they said. Patients could be left waiting in the lobby for up to 12 hours.

According to the Washington State Hospital Association, the number of nurses has shrunk by 6,000. The use of temporary nurses is up 84%.

The nursing shortage, combined with continuing COVID-19 cases has forced Providence to delay or cancel surgeries, costing it a significant revenue stream. 

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