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Why many hospitals are over capacity two years into the pandemic

The biggest factor affecting hospital capacity is patients awaiting discharge to nursing homes, adult family homes or similar settings. Sponsored by EvergreenHealth.

Hospitals are critical to communities across the state, and many of them are now operating above their capacity. This impacts their ability to provide timely acute care to the people who urgently need it.

Many people are stuck in the hospital, though they’re ready for discharge, because they aren’t able to get to nursing homes or adult family homes.

“They’re just getting stuck there because of underfunding from the state and the issue of the pandemic just keeping people from staffing those facilities,” said Beth Zborowski of the Washington State Hospital Association.

Hospitals in the EvergreenHealth system have been housing about 40 patients a day who do not need acute care and should be discharged to a skilled nursing or other facility. They can be stuck in the hospital for a variety of reasons, including issues with guardianship and insurance authorization and lack of beds in facilities. 

“The cost to us is caregivers needed to take care of them,” said Mary Shepler of EvergreenHealth. “It limits the amount of beds we can use for acute care patients. Often, they’re holding in the ED (emergency department) waiting for a bed upstairs because those beds are occupied.”

A patient with a 60 day stay displaces 20 acute care hospital patients. This is happening in hospitals across the state and hits them both on a staffing and financial level. Some are considering cutting services or may have done so already. 

“It’s really impacting the ability to do regular needed services and delaying care further,” Zborowski said. “We saw delays earlier in the pandemic and those are just continuing.”

Hospitals are financially stressed, and the last federal COVID dollars were provided prior to the Delta and Omicron surges. Labor costs and supply costs have also risen, and insurance and Medicaid payments have not. 

“We need support from lawmakers,” Zborowski said. “We need advocacy from the community, and we need people to understand what’s going on in their local hospitals.”

Seeking the right level of care helps ensure that the right providers are caring for the right patients. Find more information, including when to choose primary, urgent, or emergency care, at the EvergreenHealth website

Segment Producer Joseph Suttner. Watch New Day Northwest 11 AM weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.com. Contact New Day.

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