What Idaho’s crisis care declaration means for the healthcare system

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare warns that based on the current rate of spread,...
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare warns that based on the current rate of spread, Idaho could see as many as 30,000 new cases a week by mid-October(KMVT)
Published: Sep. 18, 2021 at 9:00 AM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — A combination of historic levels of patient care and the largest spike in COVID cases and hospitalizations Idaho has seen has brought the Idaho healthcare system to its knees.

“We are being overwhelmed with patient volumes today,” says Chris Roth, the CEO and President of St. Luke’s Health System.

As of Thursday, the whole state of Idaho has become eligible for crisis standards of care, with the largest hospitals in the state beginning to turn away more patients.

Even with care being rationed, nurses are overwhelmed, caring for three times as many patients as they would under conventional care standards.

“Which has led to deteriorations on hospital floors that require us to do prolonged bag ventilation of patients,” said Dr. Jim Souza of St. Luke’s. “Squeezing a bag, up to hours in some cases, awaiting transfer to an ICU bed, often in a different hospital.”

Dr. Souza stressed that this healthcare shortage is not a staffing shortage, saying that there are more available employees now than at the beginning of the summer.

“We have 1,500 more than we had going into the summer,” said Chief Operating Officer of St. Luke’s Sandee Gehrke.

Hospitals recently added to crisis standards of care aren’t quite as dire a situation as those in Northern Idaho, who saw a massive decrease in procedures, but officials warn we could be close behind.

“All of their open hearts, unless you were actively dying from a heart attack that couldn’t be managed in another way, were not happening,” Dr. Souza said. “That meant brain tumor surgery, brain tumor surgery, was not happening.”

Not to be lost in the impact of this declaration is the impact it is having on those providing care, the nurses who are working longer, more demanding hours and having to deal with the moral dilemma of watching patients being turned away.

“To hear our team, talk about the stress that they see and experience when they’re working ten shifts in a row,” said Gehrke, “they don’t get to see their family and they are seeing the death and despair that COVID is bringing to us, it’s really taking a toll.”

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