fbpx

Southern COVID19 Surge Spreads to the West as Idaho Hospitals Report Statewide Hospital Resource Crisis

Idaho hospitals are so overwhelmed with the surge in coronavirus cases that doctors and nurses have to contact dozens of regional hospitals across the West in hopes of finding places to transfer individual critical patients.

The situation has grown so bad that the Idaho Department of Health and Wellness announced Thursday that the entire state is in a hospital resource crisis, permitting medical facilities to ration health care and triage patients. Kootenai Health, a hospital in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has already converted a conference room into an overflow Covid unit, started paying traveling nurses higher rates, and brought in a military medical unit. The hospital received permission from the state to begin rationing care last week. That’s all in response to the Covid surge that in recent weeks has taken over much of Idaho — a state with one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates.

 

Idaho is just one Western state now feeling the effects of a widespread outbreak in the South. Health leaders in Washington State, which shares a vast border with Idaho, said they are attempting to help their neighbor states, but they are keeping a close eye on their own bed space. It’s become an ethical challenge, as Washington has been aggressive in its Covid safety measures while Idaho’s state leaders have done little to address the latest surge.

The challenge of transferring patients has added to the pressure for Idaho to establish crisis standards of care, which means doctors can triage patients dependent on bed space availability, and health care workers without specific training can be brought in to work in the ICU. Under critical standards of care, the state allows health care providers to make difficult decisions about how to allocate and use scarce medical resources. That means some patients could go without treatment, as treatment is saved for those most likely to survive.

But Idaho is not alone in pursuing this type of care. Billings Clinic, a 300-bed hospital in Montana, is considering adopting crisis standards of care as its ICU hits 150 percent capacity. Alaska’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, said Tuesday that based on its number of patients they had been “forced within our hospital to implement crisis standards of care.” Meanwhile, hospitals in Wyoming that are not normally equipped with pediatric beds are struggling to address a wave of pediatric illnesses.

With few signs that it will let up any time soon, the region’s health care systems could be stretched to their breaking point in a region of the country that remains highly skeptical of Covid vaccines and mask mandates.



Follow Us On: Facebook and Twitter