Seattle Hospital No Longer Turning Away Some Patients

SEATTLE (AP) — Harborview Medical Center in Seattle is again admitting and treating all types of patients after a lack of bed space caused the hospital to temporarily divert some people to other health care facilities.

The hospital diverted care for about seven days earlier this month, The Seattle Times reported. Patients who were generally less ill were sent to other area hospitals.

Harborview mainly attributed the decision to staff and bed shortages because of delays in discharging patients who were waiting to be discharged to a long-term care facility such as a skilled nursing clinic or adult family home.

Because of staff shortages at long-term care facilities, patients are often stuck at the hospital, creating a bed space bottleneck.

When Harborview CEO Sommer Kleweno Walley announced the change Aug. 11, she said the hospital had reached an “unprecedented census level.”

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For the week, most of the hospital’s lower-acuity patients were taken to Providence Swedish’s and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health’s facilities in Seattle, said Mark Taylor, senior associate administrator at Harborview.

“I feel very lucky,” Taylor said. “I was, as we all were, very worried about the impact of that and still am, to be honest. The hospitals and hospital systems in the area are still at very high occupancy. … But (during the week of diverting care) we were able to catch a week where we had relatively low call volumes.”

Harborview moved from 60 to 70 patients during that week, which “helped us get back to a place where we felt we’d be able to handle some type of large event” that might send multiple patients to Harborview’s emergency room, Taylor said.

The hospital remains at about 20% over capacity, however, and continues to battle discharging delays, he said.

“We haven’t really resolved the primary problem, and we’re doing everything we can to avoid it,” Taylor said. “Without a little bit of luck, I don’t know that we can say (similar disruptions) won’t happen again.”

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