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Samaritan faces staffing hurdles

by EMILY THORNTON
Assistant Managing Editor | October 1, 2021 1:03 AM

Samaritan Hospital in Moses Lake continues to have staffing challenges and has not received help from the Department of Defense, as Gov. Jay Inslee said he asked for last week.

“There have been no staffing resources allocated from the state up to this point,” Gretchen Youngren, Samaritan’s executive director of development and communications, wrote to the Herald Wednesday.

She said the hospital has 65 open positions in patient and clinical care, including on-call, full-time and part-time, and hospital staff are recruiting for those. The hospital has about 200 patient care employees at the hospital alone, she said.

Since Aug. 9, the hospital has had eight “resignations in light of the governor’s COVID-19 vaccination proclamation,” she wrote. Six of those eight were in clinical/patient care positions and two were in non-clinical positions.

“At this point, we are still able to staff all shifts, but it often requires asking clinical staff who are working in non-patient care positions to work a shift in direct patient care,” she wrote.

Hospital officials filled out a survey with the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) last week to share what resources Samaritan could use if they were made available, Youngren said. And, Inslee’s announcement Sept. 21 asking for DoD medical personnel for hospitals has not come to fruition at Samaritan.

“The latest information we received was an inquiry asking what support we’d need if given the opportunity; however, it has also been shared from the WSHA team that they have not received confirmation from the governor’s office that Department of Defense personnel would be available to support healthcare at this time,” Youngren wrote Thursday.

Andrea Carter, Samaritan’s chief medical officer, and Matt Belan, its interim perioperative medical director, said in a joint statement release Sept. 22 all elective surgical procedures would be postponed until at least Oct. 1 due to “sustained staffing strains caused by the ongoing surge of COVID-19 in the greater Moses Lake community.”

There were 21 COVID-19 hospital patients as of Thursday morning, Youngren said, eight of whom were in the intensive care unit. Two of those eight were on ventilators and two were vaccinated. All of the ICU’s 12 beds were occupied, with four non-COVID-19 patients making up the difference.

Ten of the 21 were in the medical surgical unit, two of whom were vaccinated. Twenty-three of the 25 medical surgical unit’s beds were in use with various patients.

And, three of the 21 patients were in the emergency department.

There are nine rooms in the emergency department, Youngren said, “but throughout the pandemic and during non-pandemic patient surges it’s not uncommon for” the emergency department “to expand in patient capacity.”

Additionally, eight of the 13 mother baby unit beds were occupied as of Wednesday, none of whom was for COVID-19, according to the hospital’s COVID-19 Updates webpage.

Combined, 43 beds were in use Wednesday, not counting the emergency department. Although the hospital is licensed for 50 beds, it’s staffed for 49, Youngren said in an earlier interview.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with a clarification on where Samaritan stands with help from WSHA.