Idaho declares crisis standards of care statewide as health system is overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases

September 17, 2021  –  The Idaho Department of Health and Wellness declared crisis standards of care statewide Thursday morning, at a request from the state’s largest healthcare provider, St. Luke’s Health System.

The declaration means that the entire state is in a hospital resource crisis, permitting medical facilities to ration healthcare and triage patients due to the overwhelming number of COVID cases in the state.

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

But the need for ICU bed space is not just affecting those with COVID. The limited healthcare resources mean that anyone seeking care – especially emergency care, like people who have had heart attacks, strokes or were involved in accidents – are also being affected.

One hospital, Kootenai Health (Coeur d’Alene, ID) has 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.

As has been the case with many other hard hit states in the past few months, Idaho has one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates.

Prior to the pandemic, experts said borders between states in the region were blurry when it came to patient care. Those state boundaries, however, have become a bit starker as hospitals struggle to keep beds open for patients within their own state, reports NBC News.

Health leaders in Washington state said that they are attempting to help their neighbors states, but they are keeping a close eye on their own bed space in what has 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.

Idaho is not alone in implementing these emergency care standards. 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, according to NBC News.

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