With the 5th wave of COVID-19 increasing care demands, our health care system continues to experience unprecedented times. Hospitals and health systems across the state are facing significant capacity and staffing challenges. Our members have alerted us that they are experiencing higher patient acuity and longer lengths of patient stays from non-COVID-19 patients, as well as ongoing staffing shortages and difficulty discharging non-acute patients.
All of these factors significantly impact access to care for Washington residents, as well as the health care community’s emergency readiness.
WSHA is actively collaborating with state agency leadership – including the Washington State Department of Health, the Department of Social & Health Services, the Health Care Authority, and Governor Inslee’s Office – to institute short-, medium- and long-term solutions to alleviate strain on hospitals. A crucial step is to address barriers to discharging patients who no longer have a medical need from the hospital setting.
There is a significant impact on patients, hospitals and our health care system when patients are ready for discharge but stuck in hospital beds. We have identified specific barriers and solutions to allow for safe and timely patient discharge. In the short term, we have advocated for increasing support for skilled nursing homes, re-starting the state supported long term care staffing strike teams, re-establishing COVID-19 skilled nursing facility units, re-opening the Transitional Care Center of Seattle to be fully operational, and support for long-term care facilities to increase staff salaries.
We are thankful for the partnership of the Northwest Healthcare Response Network, the REDi Healthcare Coalition, LeadingAge Washington, the Washington Healthcare Association, and the Adult Family Home Council in this advocacy.
While we know there is still significant work to be done, WSHA is grateful to the state agencies for their willingness to collaborate on these issues. It is essential that hospitals and health care systems have the support of the state to provide the best possible care to Washington residents. We will continue to push for continued action, particularly long-term solutions.