On the ‘back end of this pandemic,’ here’s who is keeping Whatcom’s hospital busy

The BA.5 variant of COVID-19 has yet not hit Whatcom County as hard as other parts of the country, but St. Joseph’s hospital in Bellingham is still asking for help from area residents.

“We’re certainly seeing far fewer numbers than the omicron surge and the delta surge from the hospital standpoint,” PeaceHealth Northwest Regional Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sudhakar Karlapudi said in an interview with The Bellingham Herald. “We’re still seeing a few number of cases in the hospital that have COVID, but it’s largely patients that are admitted for other reasons. There are people being admitted for COVID, of course, but a larger proportion are patients who are admitted for other problems that have COVID.”

In a news release sent out this week, the hospital again asked patients to utilize the hospital’s emergency department only for the most emergent or life-threatening conditions, while asking patients seeking care for non-emergent conditions to visit their primary care physicians or an urgent care center before going to the hospital.

Karlapudi told The Herald that the hospital has seen “historically high” patient volumes in recent weeks, but COVID is not the direct cause for that increase. Instead, Karlapudi said the hospital is seeing more patients who have not properly cared for chronic diseases due to COVID-19 and patients with new diagnoses of cancer or other chronic diseases from the past two-plus years.