Virginia Mason Memorial hospital clarifies statement about hospital capacity


YAKIMA, Wash. — Virginia Mason Memorial hospital officials addressed public concern about their capacity Tuesday, citing miscommunication with local health officials for a previous statement saying there was no bed space left at the hospital.

Hospital officials said the hospital did have beds available — a total of about 250, with at least 50 left open— and as such, they were not at or exceeding their capacity. Officials also said they wanted to make clear that patients wanting care at the hospital will not be turned away and should still seek treatment if needed.

The response comes after a statement from the Yakima Health District on Thursday, reading in part:

As of last night Virginia Mason Memorial had no intensive care or non-intensive care beds
available. There were multiple patients waiting for hospital bed space overnight. This was after at least 17 patients
had already been transferred out of the county. Several individuals are still currently waiting for available bed space.

In the statement, the health district said local hospitals had been reporting critical staffing shortages due to staff being under quarantine for testing positive for COVID-19, displaying symptoms of the virus or being a close contact to a positive patient.

Hospital officials said while they needed more specialists and other workers to keep up with the demands of treating COVID-19 patients, they remain below capacity levels in terms of beds available.

Officials said while 17 people were transferred to other hospitals Thursday, the number was an anomaly; typically, the hospital transfers about three to four patients per day, sending those with further needs to hospitals that can meet those needs.

Carole Peet, the hospital’s president and CEO, said the majority of transfers over the past few months have been to Harborview Medical Center, Seattle Children’s Hospital and other hospitals on the western side of the state.

Peet said while the hospital is not currently exceeding capacity, it could be if the community does not work together to further minimize the spread of the virus.

“We need people to wear masks. We need you to social distance. We need you to wash your hands,” Peet said. “If  the community did none of that, we would be overrun. We would not be able to handle the huge amount of infections that would occur with COVID-19.”

Officials said the hospital had 42 patients with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, with 11 of them on ventilators.