Hospitals across the state are working with local and state public health officials to respond to coronavirus (COVID-19). Hospitals are 24-hour operations that are prepared to respond to unpredictable situations and infectious disease.
While COVID-19 is new for the health care system in Washington state, preparing to respond to emergencies is not. Hospitals and health systems conduct emergency preparedness training year-round, in conjunction with local and regional public health organizations.
Most hospitals in the state to do not have extra capacity and are not holding beds open for possible COVID-19 patients. However, hospital space can and will be made quickly available in an emergency or with a surge of critically ill patients. Many hospitals have activated their emergency response plans to prepare to respond to community need, though most hospital operations are continuing as normal (including planned procedures).
This is not a static situation and hospital space can and will be made quickly available in an emergency or with a surge of critically ill patients. Hospitals have demonstrated this in several recent instances, including the I-5 the train derailment. Area hospitals canceled elective surgeries and procedures and were ready to accept injured patients. The capacity they created far exceeded the demand.
Hospitals treat patients with infectious diseases every day. Hospital staff, from nurses and doctors to custodial workers, are well trained on precautions to keep themselves and others safe. Hospitals are closely following CDC guidelines to protect staff and keep them healthy so they can care for patients. CDC guidelines are changing as more is understood.
For now, most hospitals are operating normally with planned procedures happening as scheduled.
What the public needs to know
Attend regularly scheduled health care appointments
People should continue attending their regularly scheduled appointments for their existing health needs. Skipping appointments for chronic conditions could be detrimental to people’s health and could result in the need for emergency care.
Clinics and hospitals are taking additional precautions to ensure people are safe when they come in for their appointments, including asking questions about symptoms before entering the facility. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, you can call the hospital or your doctor’s office before coming in to get instructions on how to safely enter the building to protect other patients and staff.
Most people will experience only mild illness from COVID-19
One of the biggest things we want the public to know is that most COVID-19 cases will not require hospitalization or even a trip to the ER. Community members are encouraged to practice good hand hygiene, avoid touching their face, cough or sneeze into a tissue that can be thrown away, and stay home if they aren’t feeling well.
Alert your health care providers if you have severe symptoms
People with severe respiratory symptoms who need to seek care should call their provider before coming in for instructions on entering the facility in a way that protects other patients and staff.
Only visit ERs if you have an emergency
Emergency Rooms should only be used when injury or illness is an emergency. People who need treatment for non-emergency illness and minor injuries should visit a primary care or walk-in urgent care clinic. If you are unsure, call your insurance company or local health care provider’s nurse triage line. Many insurance companies and health care providers also have online symptom evaluation websites.
Media availability: Broader information on hospital response
We appreciate the media’s role in keeping the public informed about how hospitals are responding to COVID-19. The Washington State Hospital Association is available to provide a statewide perspective on hospital readiness and activities surrounding the response to COVID-19. WSHA is actively working with hospitals across the state, the Washington State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Northwest Health Care Response Network, the Regional Emergency and Disaster Healthcare Coalition and local public officials to distribute resources, educate our broader community and assist in state-wide health care collaboration.