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.
Alberta & Idaho exemplify where it goes when Covid is unfettered by government. Jurisdictions that let individualism and a rejection of scientific evidence prevail will now triage the elderly and severely disabled people out of access to their overcrowded ICU’s. It’s a tragedy. pic.twitter.com/M84oYaLhRK
— MichaelHurleyCUPE (@HurleyOCHUCUPE) September 16, 2021
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.
A doctor appointed to the Idaho health board this week called the COVID-19 vaccine *needle rape* …and I will be throwing my phone across the room upon tweeting this.
— Kate 🤍🇺🇸 (@ImSpeaking13) September 11, 2021
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.
#Parents & caregivers: Is your school helping protect your child from #COVID19? CDC recommends schools require universal indoor masking & use other prevention strategies regardless of how many students, educators, and staff are currently vaccinated. More: https://t.co/lBbMr0hQTg.
— CDC (@CDCgov) September 16, 2021