'The situation is dire:' Idaho declares crisis standards for all hospitals as COVID-19 surges

<p><p>The crisis in Idaho is now widespread. </p></p><p><p>After a request from St. Luke’s Health System, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare declared crisis standards of care statewide on Thursday morning.</p></p><p><p>Crisis standards of care mean hospitals can operate outside of normal settings, with different staff ratios and, in the worst-case scenario, ration care to save the most lives. </p></p><p><p>North and Central Idaho have been in crisis standards of care since Sept. 6 .</p></p><p><p>The Idaho Crisis Standards of Care Activation Advisory Committee met on Wednesday and determined that the influx of COVID patients had severely impacted all of the state’s hospitals to the point of asking the director to expand crisis standards statewide. </p></p><p><p>The move comes as COVID cases and hospitalizations are at their highest point in the pandemic and show no signs of slowing.</p></p><p><p>As of Tuesday, there were more than 600 Idaho residents hospitalized with the virus as federal contract workers are being dispatched to support understaffed hospitals. There were 173 Idaho COVID patients in ICUs statewide.</p></p><p><p>Last winter, hospitals statewide saw just over 400 COVID patients at once before the surge quelled.</p></p><p><p>“Our hospitals and health care systems need our help. The best way to end crisis standards of care is for more people to get vaccinated. It dramatically reduces your chances of having to go to the hospital if you do get sick from COVID-19. In addition, please wear a mask indoors in public and outdoors when it’s crowded to help slow the spread,” Department of Health and Welfare director Dave Jeppesen said in a news release. “The situation is dire – we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident.”</p></p><p><p>Not all hospitals will have to ration care under the declaration, as situations vary around the state and in different hospitals.</p></p><p><p>Kootenai Health has been operating in crisis standards of care <a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/sep/07/sickest-patients-may-no-longer-get-spot-in-icus-as/” target=”_blank”>for a little longer than a week</a>, treating lower-level COVID patients in a former conference room and stretching staffing patterns to accommodate the surge.</p></p><p><p>There are 113 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus at Kootenai Health, and 34 of those COVID patients are in the intensive care unit.</p></p><p><p>Staffing challenges have forced the Coeur d’Alene hospital to ask the state for resources. A <a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/sep/08/department-of-defense-medical-team-arrives-to-help/” target=”_blank”>medical team from the Department of Defense</a> and contracted federal workers have arrived in the last week to help the hospital treat the surge of COVID patients.</p></p><p><p>The addition of 90 staff members is helping already exhausted nurses attend to the predominantly unvaccinated COVID patients who continue to come into the hospital seeking treatment, but additional staff will not be enough to keep the hospital out of crisis standards of care. </p></p><p><p>Hospital leaders have asked Idaho residents repeatedly to wear masks and get vaccinated to help stem the tide of COVID cases and hospitalizations that continues to rise statewide.</p></p><p><p><strong>Here’s a look at local numbers:</strong></p></p><p><p>The Spokane Regional Health District reported 296 COVID-19 cases on Thursday and one additional death. </p></p><p><p>There have been 795 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.</p></p><p><p>There are 231 COVID-19 patients in Spokane hospitals.</p></p><p><p>The Panhandle Health District reported 183 new cases and 35 additional deaths on Thursday.</p></p><p><p>There have been 433 COVID deaths in Panhandle residents.</p></p><p><p>There are 113 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.</p></p>