Local hospitals at ICU capacity; ICU nurses resigning
KEPR Action News

Hospitals across Washington state are overwhelmed with COVID patients.

This week, hospitals in the Tri-Cities hit a new high for the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Hospital leaders and nurses said this is the worst they've seen it since the pandemic began. Not only are COVID hospitalizations piling on, but so are staff shortages.

Healthcare workers who have been in the business for years are resigning. One nurse, who we'll refer to as Mary for anonymity purposes, said she resigned from Kadlec because she couldn't take it anymore.

"To be leaving, I'm just shocked," Mary said. "Still I don't think it's really set in that I 'm leaving, but like I said, I just can't do it anymore."

This is a response that's been heard time and time again from frontline healthcare workers.

Mary has worked in the ICU for over a decade.

"There's just no way to paint how bad it is because we're just tired of fighting this disease that's relentless," Mary said.

She said one of the most difficult parts was seeing middle-aged, healthy people die everyday because of the virus.

"It's so much worse. Younger people are dying and even if they're not dying, their lives are going to be different forever because this disease process just destroys so much of them," Mary said.

With more ICU nurses leaving, hospitals are scrambling to fill their positions.

"We're starting to look at staff that we have in other places that have ICU experience," Kadlec Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kevin Pieper said. " We're very full. Our COVID volumes have been as high as they've ever been."

Now Kadlec can't even help other hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

"We take them when we can, but we've been so full with local patients that we haven't taken any lately," Pieper said,

Pieper said they have about 80 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19 — a number they're not used to seeing.

"If it goes up we will continue to have to do things like cancel more cases and eventually transfer more out of our community," Pieper said.

As an ICU nurse who's been there since the beginning, Mary said it's hard to really show people what's actually going on inside the hospitals.

"There are nurses on other floors of the hospital that still don't know how bad it is in the ICU," Mary said. "They're shocked when we tell them how bad it is. So I am telling you as someone who's been on the frontlines since the beginning, it is real. It is killing people and you've got to do your part."

Local hospital leaders said they're still seeing about 90% of COVID hospitalizations in the unvaccinated population.

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