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Posted on: September 16, 2021

Healthcare Systems Overwhelmed

There are over 770 people with active COVID-19 infections in Ferry, Pend Oreille, and Stevens counties right now, and many people are dying of COVID-19 illness or complication. Our public health and healthcare systems are overwhelmed.

 In the last month, we have lost 26 community members to complications of COVID-19. Three of these people lived in Ferry County, three were from Pend Oreille County, and 20 lived in Stevens County. Sadly, these individuals will not be the last to pass away from COVID-19 in our area. We are rapidly spiraling to a point where the public health and hospital settings cannot keep up with the community’s need for COVID and non COVID-related assistance. 

 The latest surge of COVID-19 cases in the Tri County area has impacted patient care services at hospitals in the past week. In some scenarios, this means diverting patient care resources (equipment, staff and providers) to other departments with critical patients needing immediate care. This may require hospitals to divert ambulances or stop admitting patients if the hospital has exceeded capacity. “Capacity” is not just defined in terms of physical space or empty hospital beds, but also considers infection prevention measures (e.g. placing COVID patients away from non-COVID patients) and available staff in patient care departments. 

“We are experiencing an unprecedented strain on our health care system as we care for the highest number of patients with COVID-19 since the start of this pandemic,” said Ron Rehn, Providence Mount Carmel Hospital & Providence St. Joseph’s Hospital Chief Administrative Officer. “The overwhelming majority of these patients are unvaccinated, which is heartbreaking because it means this situation was preventable. We all play a part in reducing the spread of this deadly virus in our community. We urge everyone who is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine.”

This dire situation will continue to worsen until every one of us makes a conscious effort to protect ourselves and thereby protect others. Hospitals want to provide care, especially emergency and inpatient care to the communities they serve. During this surge, however, this care may start to look different. It is imperative each of us acts to protect ourselves, our neighbors, our healthcare systems, and our schools by using a multifaceted approach: 

  • First, get vaccinated. The pandemic will end when people are immune to COVID-19. 
  • Second, wear a face covering and maintain 6 feet of physical distance when out in public, even if you are already vaccinated. We know masking and distancing work. 
  • Third, if you are awaiting COVID-19 test results, are a close contact, or have tested positive, please stay home. 
  • Finally, everyone should take care of their health (especially chronic conditions) and work, drive and play safely. Each of us has these tools available, and it is important that we all apply them. 

All of us are physically and emotionally tired of COVID-19. Some are worn out from trying to save the lives of severely ill people. Others are tired of following safety requirements. Still others are weary from enforcing these safety requirements. No matter the reason we are tired, we all need to realize that COVID-19 is relentless and the only way to slow the spread is to work together. Please protect yourself and your neighbors. Help us slow the spread and save lives.

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