Idaho Health Amid Massive COVID Surge

BUAZ, Idaho (AP) – Idaho public health officials on Thursday expanded health rationing across the state amid a significant increase in the number of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization.

The Idaho Department of Health and Human Services issued the announcement after the St. Luke Health System, Idaho’s largest hospital network, asked state health officials to authorize “crisis treatment standards” on Wednesday as the surge in COVID-19 patients depleted medical state resources. …

Idaho is one of the least vaccinated states in the United States: only about 40% of its residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Only Wyoming and West Virginia have lower vaccination rates.

Crisis standards mean that scarce resources, such as beds in intensive care units, will be allocated to the patients most likely to survive. Other patients will be treated with less effective treatments or, in severe cases, receive pain medication and other palliative care.

The move Thursday came a week after Idaho officials began authorizing health rationing in hospitals in the northern parts of the state.

“The situation is dire – we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat patients in our hospitals, whether you’re there because of COVID-19, a heart attack, or a car accident,” said Idaho Department of Social Services director Dave Jeppesen. … in the statement.

He encouraged people to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors and outdoors.

“Our hospitals and healthcare systems need our help. The best way to end crisis standards of care is to get more people vaccinated. This drastically reduces your chances of being hospitalized if you do get COVID-19, ”he said. said Jeppesen.

According to estimates from Johns Hopkins University, every 201 Idaho residents have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week. The state, mostly rural, ranks 12th in the United States for the number of newly confirmed cases per capita. More than 1,300 new coronavirus cases were reported in the state on Wednesday, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Human Services.

The number of hospitalizations has increased dramatically. On Monday, the state’s most recent data showed 678 people across the state were hospitalized with the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care beds has remained largely unchanged over the past two weeks at 70 per day, suggesting that the state may have reached the limit of its capacity to treat patients in an intensive care unit. therapy.

While all hospitals in the state can now limit health care resources as needed, some may not need to take this step. Health officials said each hospital will decide how to implement crisis standards of care in its own facility.

Kootenai Health in Coeur-d’Alene became the first hospital in the state to formally introduce crisis management standards last week.

At the time, Chief of Staff Dr.Robert Scoggins said some patients were being treated at the convention center, which had been converted into a field hospital. Others were treated in corridors or in converted emergency room lobbies. Urgent and planned operations are on hold in most of the state.

On Wednesday, nearly 92% of all COVID-19 patients at St Luke’s hospitals were not vaccinated. Sixty-one out of 78 patients in the intensive care unit were infected with COVID-19. Luke’s doctors have been begging Idaho residents for months to get vaccinated and take action to slow the spread of the coronavirus, warning that hospital beds are quickly running out.

Public health officials have been warning Idaho residents for weeks to take extra care to avoid getting into hospitals. Jeppesen said last week that residents should take their medication as prescribed, wear their seat belts, and reconsider participating in any activity, such as cycling, that could lead to injury.

The health crisis isn’t just affecting hospitals – primary care doctors and medical device suppliers are also struggling to cope with the demand associated with the coronavirus.

One major healthcare provider, Norco Medical, said the demand for oxygen cylinders and related equipment has increased, sometimes forcing the company to send patients home with fewer cylinders than they normally provide. The company is also asking people to return unused or unneeded oxygen tanks so they have enough on hand to overstrain.

“There is a limit to everything, my leadership team and I actually discussed it, and of course we all agreed that the word we would like to use right now is that the situation is getting tense,” said the President of Norco Elias Margonis to KTVB in Boise. … “The problem is how much harder it gets.”

Primary Health Medical Group, the largest independent primary and emergency care system in Idaho, was forced to cut opening hours late last month because its waiting rooms were so packed with patients that staff stayed hours after closing to see them all. In the meantime, the company was dealing with more than usual sick employees because they were exposed to the coronavirus in the community or had symptoms and were awaiting tests. Vaccination provides reliable protection against serious coronavirus disease, but the highly contagious delta variant can still cause breakthrough cases in vaccinated people.

As the number of cases continued to rise, some of the 21 Primary Health Medical Group clinics in southwest Idaho were forced to shut down on weekends or certain days of the week, according to CEO Dr. David Peterman.

Now, the medical team is also preparing to monitor their patients who are discharged earlier than usual after emergencies, Peterman said.

“We will see more visits with patients who are avoiding the emergency room and with patients who are sicker and need more care,” Peterman said. “We are setting up the system right now to make sure that this weekend we are immediately notified if one of our patients is discharged early from the hospital so we can make sure these patients are okay.”

According to Peterman, the resources of the entire medical system are exhausted.

“It’s heartbreaking. I have been practicing medicine in southwest Idaho for 40 years and have never seen anything like it, ”he said. “I sympathize with the doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are making very difficult decisions.”

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