Yakima hospital concerned about COVID-19 testing capacity

YAKIMA, Wash. — With the latest COVID-19 surge threatening to overwhelm Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, health care workers are concerned about testing capacity.

Hospital officials said they’ve seen an increase in people coming to the emergency room for a COVID test, either because they can’t get an appointment elsewhere or they’ve been sent by another location struggling with the demand for testing.

At a virtual community forum Friday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marty Brueggemann said with their ER already being overrun — with 30 to 40 patients in the waiting room at any time and patients being seen in chairs set up in the hallway — they can’t handle those additional ER visits.

“We’ve historically done those as a service to the community, but right now, we can’t handle those additional volumes,” Brueggemann said.

YVMH CEO and President Carole Peet said the hospital cannot take any additional strain on its resources or it could have to move to crisis standards of care.

“We are right on the edge of it,” Peet said. “We could flip into it tomorrow.”

The hospital is asking people instead to visit one of the county’s two community-based testing sites: Yakima Valley College or Sunnyside Community Center, which have both seen increasing demand for testing.

The two sites administered a total of more than 3,300 COVID tests over the past week, with one in four coming back positive for the virus. Additionally, 284 of the 861 new positives belonged to young people 19 years old or younger.

“This is very different than some of the previous variants that really weren’t affecting the younger population,” Brueggemann said.

Hospital officials said they’re hoping the state will be able to help with increasing the community’s COVID testing capacity.

“We have reached out to the Department of Health to fast track a second type of testing site, but we need greater partnership,” Peet said.

Yakima Valley College — 810 S. 14th Ave. in Yakima — is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday for COVID testing. They’ve added additional hours this weekend, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Pre-register here for faster testing. 

The Sunnyside Community Center — 1521 S. 1st St. in Sunnyside — is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Pre-registration is encouraged for faster testing. Pre-register here if you have symptoms or here if you have no symptoms.

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