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Idaho Covid ‘Crisis’ Deepens: Hospitals May Decide Who Gets Life-Saving Treatment

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 16, 2021


The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced Thursday it has activated “crisis standards of care” across the state due to a massive influx in Covid-19 hospitalizations that has overwhelmed healthcare facilities, giving hospitals the rare authority to decide who receives life-saving treatment. 

Key Facts

The declaration was then expanded across the entire state on Thursday “because the massive increase in Covid-19 patients requiring hospitalizations in all areas of the state has exhausted existing resources,” Idaho’s health department said. 

This rare emergency declaration gives hospitals and other treatment facilities across the state the authority to implement care-rationing strategies if necessary. 

Not all will need to do it, but hospitals can now allocate scarce resources like intensive care unit (ICU) beds to those most likely to survive.

Other patients may receive medical care “that is different from what they expect,” like being placed in conference rooms rather than traditional hospital rooms or going without life-saving equipment, the Idaho health officials said.

If it comes down to it, “someone who is otherwise healthy and would recover more rapidly may get treated before someone who is not likely to recover,” the department of health and welfare said.

Crucial Quote

“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,” Idaho DHW Director Dave Jeppesen said in a statement.

Key Background

Idaho is one of a number of states heavily impacted by the surge of the more infectious delta variant during the summer and early fall. It reported a swift uptick in cases in early July and is now counting more than 1,240 cases, 654 hospitalizations and 19 deaths per day, according to data compiled by The New York Times. Deaths have increased by 144% over the past two weeks, bringing the state’s total to more than 2,500 fatalities throughout the pandemic (about 1 in every 700 residents dead from the virus). The inundation of hospitals with unvaccinated Covid-19 patients has become so severe the state has been outsourcing patients to Washington, whose own hospitals are delaying procedures amid high caseloads, as detailed by a New York Times investigation earlier this week. Kootenai Health, a hospital in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has started paying its nurses $250 an hour and has already converted a conference room into an overflow Covid-19 unit.

Big Number 

93%. That’s how many of Idaho’s intensive care unit beds are currently filled, with almost 62% of them occupied by Covid-19 patients, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Surprising Fact

Despite the worsening situation, Idaho has resisted implementing any vaccine or mask mandates, though some counties and cities have established their own. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, actually banned schools from mandating masks, a decision recently blocked by a federal judge. The state is battling high levels of vaccine skepticism, with just 40% fully vaccinated and 46% partially vaccinated against the virus.

Chief Critic

“It’s ridiculous,” said Cassie Sauer, the president of the Washington State Hospital Association, told The New York Times. “If you have your health care system melting down, the idea that you would not immediately issue a mask mandate is just bizarre. They need to be doing everything they can possibly do.”

Further Reading 

“‘Their Crisis’ Is ‘Our Problem’: Washington Grapples With Idaho Covid Cases” (The New York Times)

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