Staff shortage worsens at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital

YAKIMA, Wash. — Already facing a worsening staff shortage, Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital officials are concerned that a sudden increase in COVID-19 patients could push them over the edge, forcing them to move to crisis standards of care.

“It could literally be overnight at this point,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marty Brueggemann said. “If we admitted a whole slew of patient COVID patients overnight … if we had another 10 or 15 staff members fall ill and that compromised our ability to staff, that could push us over the edge.”

Brueggemann said the hospital has lost a significant number of employees during the pandemic, many choosing to retire early or leave the profession altogether.

“We’re asking people to come in on their days off, cancel vacations, keep answering the call, day after day and they’re really tired and worn out at this point,” Brueggemann said.

RELATED: ‘It can definitely just ruin you’: Yakima COVID patient regrets putting off vaccination

Brueggemann said staff members are also getting sick; on Tuesday, 75 employees were out for COVID-related reasons. He said that puts even more pressure on staff who are already struggling, especially those directly caring for COVID patients.

“You see all this tragedy, left and right, and people are mad at you for trying to help them because they don’t want to be here,” said Bret Desgrosellier, a registered nurse working in the hospital’s COVID unit. “I mean, how can that not just devastate you, every day?”

Desgrosellier said they’ve been trying to educate the community about the importance of getting vaccinated.

“I don’t have people who come in here that are vaccinated and die on me,” Desgrosellier said. “I have people who come in here who are unvaccinated and die on me and that’s sad.”

The Yakima Health District has several mobile vaccination clinics scheduled over the weekend, including:

  • Saturday, Sept. 18
      • 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Yakima Pride Festival, 102 N. Naches Ave. in Yakima
  • Sunday, Sept. 19
      • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fiesta Foods, 1008 E. Nob Hill Blvd. in Yakima
      • 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fiesta Foods, 2010 Yakima Valley Highway in Sunnyside

A list of additional vaccination sites can be found at yakimavaccines.org.

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