Providence Caring for Record Number of COVID-19 Patients, But Fewer Require Critical Care

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The number of patients receiving care at Providence Southwest Washington hospitals in Centralia and Olympia has more than doubled over the last two weeks, according to a hospital spokesperson.

It’s likely a result of the high transmission rate seen with the omicron variant.

Chris Thomas, spokesperson with Providence Medical Group Southwest Washington, said on Jan. 1 there were about 60 COVID-19 patients receiving care between Providence Centralia and Providence St. Peter hospitals.

As of Thursday this week, there were a record 148 patients receiving care.

“That’s a big increase in just the last couple of weeks,” Thomas told The Chronicle.

During the height of the delta wave last summer, Providence Southwest hospitals at one point were caring for a little more than 100 COVID-19 patients, which then was an all-time high.

But this time around coronavirus patients are making up a smaller percentage of the population receiving care in critical care wings, Thomas said.

During delta, about 60% of critical care unit patients were COVID-positive. Today, that number is at about 40%. Patients are also coming in with symptoms that are less severe.

“The bad news is we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of patients who are being hospitalized overall with COVID-19. The good news is the acuity level and the percentage of patients needing critical care is less,” he said.

Between the two hospitals, Providence Southwest operates about 46 critical care unit beds, though that number can fluctuate with demand, Thomas said.

The outsized demand for COVID-19 care continues to hit hospitals across Washington state hard. Taya Briley, executive vice president with the Washington State Hospital Association, told FOX13 News that “this is the worst situation hospitals in Washington state have been in compared with any prior point in the pandemic.”

Late last month, Providence Southwest announced routine visitors would no longer be allowed at Providence Centralia and Providence St. Peter hospitals in an effort to limit spread of omicron to immuno-compromised patients.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency order pausing all non-emergent health care procedures and surgeries in order to “address the current COVID-related state of crisis in hospitals.”

His emergency order goes into effect Monday, and Thomas said Southwest Providence would comply with that deadline. Southwest Providence had already been limiting non-emergency procedures that require an in-patient bed.

A statewide hospital staffing crisis has also led Inslee to call in the National Guard to deploy 100 non-clinical personnel across the state to assist with hospitals with non-medical tasks, such as testing.

Providence St. Peter in Olympia is one of those hospitals where the National Guard will set up a COVID-19 testing site.

“We’re going to be working with the National Guard to set up a drive through testing center on the Providence St. Peter campus,” sometime within the next week, Thomas said. “Until then, folks should use the community resources available for testing.”

On Thursday, The Seattle Times reported that Lewis County has one of the highest hospitalization rates in the state.