Peninsula hospitals postpone elective procedures

COVID surge, staffing creating obstacles

PORT ANGELES — Elective procedures at Olympic Medical Center and Jefferson Healthcare have been postponed until at least next week because of high patient volumes and staffing shortages.

Jefferson Healthcare’s Facebook post said: “Patient volume is slightly higher than average, however, a smaller staff pool puts a strain on existing staff. Patient activity in the Emergency Department and Express Clinic continues to be very high but there was a slight decrease in activity last week over the prior week.

“Elective surgeries are postponed, ensuring that we can care for the most acutely ill and urgent/emergent cases. We maintain a COVID-safe environment to provide care for all of our patients.”

Elective procedures are also on hold for OMC this week, and that is evaluated weekly, depending on the hospital constraints as COVID-19 continues to surge in the community, said Dr. Scott Kennedy, OMC chief medical officer.

Elective surgeries are procedures that can be safely postponed by two weeks or more without causing further harm to the patient, Kennedy said.

By Tuesday morning, a total of 19 patients on the North Olympic Peninsula were hospitalized with COVID-19 between the two hospitals, with 15 at OMC in Port Angeles and four at Jefferson Healthcare, officials said.

As of 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, there were 59 total patients hospitalized at OMC and 13 at Jefferson Healthcare.

Of the COVID-19 patents, 12 at OMC were unvaccinated, said Darryl Wolfe, OMC chief executive officer, in a media briefing Tuesday afternoon.

Nearly 100 percent of the COVID-19 patients needing Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are unvaccinated at OMC, said Dr. Scott Kennedy, OMC chief medical officer.

Staffing shortages continues to be a main limiting factor for care for the hospitals, with OMC now hiring for 228 positions, more than 60 of which are among the nursing sector, said Jennifer Burkhardt, OMC chief human resources officer.

While there has been a slight improvement statewide in the strain on hospitals, it is still a challenge for Jefferson Healthcare and OMC to transfer patients to other hospitals for higher levels of care, due to high patient volumes statewide.

Officials at both hospitals urge residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. They also urge people to not delay important medical care.

“Vaccination is really a life-protecting measure,” Kennedy said. “That said, if individuals are not vaccinated, they can still take measures that can help protect each other and the community; the masking, the physical distancing, the hand hygiene.

“Good, clean environments and really avoiding gatherings unmasked — it’s really a big deal,” Kennedy said.

“One thing we’ve seen at the hospital, if two individuals are masked, and it turns out one has COVID, we don’t have transmission of COVID. Masking makes a big difference.”

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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