St. Luke’s Magic Valley have run out of ICU beds, as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Twin Falls

Published: Aug. 30, 2021 at 1:53 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Idaho’s hospitals continue to see a surge in COVID-19 patients amidst the latest wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

St. Luke’s Magic Valley no longer has any available staffed intensive care unit beds, as all of their 14 staffed ICU beds are currently filled. 11 of their 14 current ICU patients have COVID-19.

There are ICU beds available at St. Luke’s Magic Valley, but their ICU capacity is limited by the number of ICU nurses on staff. As KMVT has previously reported, ICU units can be difficult to staff because they require a specialized type of nurse to take care of those patients.

Dr. Joshua Kern, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Magic Valley, Jerome and Wood River, said this lack of available ICU beds is unprecedented, as the ICU never reached capacity during the peak in COVID-19 cases last fall.

“It’s hour-by-hour,” said Kern. “As soon as somebody dies or somebody comes off a ventilator and is able to be moved out of the ICU, another person is moved in almost immediately.”

Roughly 75% of patients currently in the ICU at St. Luke’s Magic Valley are on a ventilator.

Kern added a patient had to be transferred from St. Luke’s Magic Valley to a hospital outside of the St. Luke’s system over the weekend because there were not any available staffed ICU beds within the hospital system.

While a rise in coronavirus patients has partially resulted in the capacity for ICU care, Kern said area doctors believe people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are often waiting too long before being seen by a doctor, and are consequently very ill by the time they arrive at the hospital.

“If you think you have COVID, you’re at risk for severe illness and you’re unvaccinated, it probably makes sense to see somebody and be evaluated for the severity of illness,” said Kern.

According to Kern, if one is experiencing increasing shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, seeking out medical care is advised.

“That’s what we see when people come in and have stayed home too long,” said Kern. “Their oxygen is critically low because their lungs are filled with fluid and they’re not getting good oxygen exchange.”

Kern additionally said from the surge in cases last fall until now, hospital physicians have seen a significant decrease in the age of patients. The average age of patients arriving at the hospital with COVID-19 last fall was around 70-years-old. Now, that average age has gone down roughly a decade to 60 years of age.

Kern did state, however, that there was a day last week where the average age of the 11 patients on ventilators was 42-years-old.

Last week, Twin Falls County had the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state with 496 reported cases according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

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