COVID-positivity rate drives OMC hospital admissions

PORT ANGELES — A snapshot of Olympic Medical Center was provided Thursday by CEO Darryl Wolfe.

Of the 54 patients in the hospital’s acute care units, 14 are suffering with COVID-19, Wolfe reported in an online news conference.

Twelve of them are unvaccinated, he said, and range in age from their 30s up to their 80s.

The two vaccinated patients are elders between the ages of 60 and 89.

Olympic Medical Center is reconfiguring the hospital and re-erecting the emergency tent outside the annex building, he noted, and postponing all non-urgent surgeries.

These measures are to create capacity wherever possible “as we continue to work through the surge,” and accommodate “a lot more patients seeking ICU levels of care.”

Dr. Scott Kennedy, OMC Chief Medical Officer, noted the hospital currently has sufficient ventilators and medication supplies, but “we anticipate a high rate of [hospital] admissions” in the coming days.

The number of positive COVID tests, at OMC’s drive-through site and throughout Clallam County, is reaching record highs, he said.

Clallam’s positive-test rate hit 21.4 percent during the two-week period that ended this past Monday. In Jefferson County, the rate is 11.82 percent.

“I see birthdates from the 1920s to the 1960s, regularly. Just the age of this group of positive cases puts individuals at risk of hospitalization and more severe disease,” Kennedy said.

Through all of this, OMC is laboring under an intense shortage of people.

Working through the past many months has left OMC’s workforce fatigued and overwhelmed, Chief Human Resources Officer Jennifer Burkhardt said.

Nurses must sit beside patients as they take their last breaths. No one knows when the pandemic will come to an end. These things, she said, have a powerful effect on workers.

OMC has 1,640 employees, Burkhardt noted, but it also has 231 positions open.

Nearly 70 of those are nursing positions.

OMC is redeploying the staff members who would have been needed for non-urgent surgeries, distributing them around the hospital. Still, many workers are out, Burkhardt said, so it is difficult to staff all of the shifts.

“We are seeing an array of responses” to Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccination mandate, she added.

For the most part, OMC’s staffers are vaccinated or have initiated the process; Burkhardt expects to have the workforce “mostly intact” by the Oct. 18 deadline.

There is much fatigue and stress, she acknowledged, but there is also resilience, “and there is great patient care happening.”

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected] news.com.

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