Unprecedented Capacity Issues Impacting Hospitals and Emergency Rooms Region-wide
Have you been to an emergency room lately and experienced longer than usual lines and wait times? If so, you’re not alone. Hospitals, clinics, and emergency departments throughout Puget Sound have recently been experiencing an unprecedented and significant surge in patient visits, increasing the time it takes for patients to see their health care providers.
“Increased patient waiting times in emergency departments throughout Puget Sound are reflective of a critical regional healthcare situation,” according to Dr. Cameron Buck, Emergency Department Director at Valley Medical Center. Hospitals across Puget Sound are currently at or above capacity and longer ED waiting times are a symptom of a larger issue. “While our overall goal is outstanding healthcare, we’re currently experiencing unprecedented capacity issues that are stressing the entire hospital system.”
“Strategies include up-staffing in the ED and surge staffing across all hospital units,” said Dr. Buck. “We’re also extending hours at urgent care facilities and opening alternate care areas in the hospital that are not normally associated with direct patient care. This week EMS and healthcare leaders from across the region met to coordinate prehospital processes for this critical situation.”
While hospitals are seeing an increase in flu cases, capacity issues are far more complex than that. “There are a finite number of beds and staff to care for the influx of patients,” adds Dr. Buck. “The influx of flu cases is certainly contributing. However, other factors such as increase disease burden, lack of inpatient capacity and an array of health system issues are taxing the system.”
According to data provided by the Northwest Healthcare Response Network (a collaboration of private and public partners working together to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies) hospitals throughout the Puget Sound area have been experiencing a surge in patients and nursing staff shortages. Increased patient numbers and staff shortages have a cascading effect that results in longer than average wait times in ERs, hospitals, and clinics throughout the region.