Hospital crisis declared across Idaho, allowing rationed health care

Karin Turner, left, and Mark Ellett read a chest X-ray of a patient with COVID-19 in the intensive care unit at Idaho Falls Community Hospital on Dec. 7, 2020. On Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, Idaho Dept. of Health and Welfare announced that Crisis Standards of Care has been activated throughout the state.

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The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced Thursday that Crisis Standards of Care has been activated for all of Idaho due to the influx of COVID-19 patients across the state.

St. Luke's Health System requested that crisis standards of care be activated beyond North Idaho.

“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 Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said in a news release Thursday.

Crisis standards of care is a plan to strategically ration healthcare resources to provide the usual standard of care to people who need it. When in effect, patients admitted to the hospital may find that hospital beds are not available or are in repurposed rooms (such as a conference room) or that needed equipment is not available. They may have to wait for a bed to open, or be moved to another hospital in or out of state that has the resources they need. Or they might not be prioritized for the limited resources that are available. In other words, someone who is otherwise healthy and would recover more rapidly may get treated or have access to a ventilator before someone who is not likely to recover, Health and Welfare said in the Thursday news release.

Individual hospitals across the state will determine if crisis standards of care will be implemented as needed. Hospitals managing well under the current circumstances will continue operating as they have been. 

Only 40% of Idaho residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 45% of the state population has at least one dose according to Mayo Clinic. Idaho is one of the least vaccinated U.S. states, with West Virginia and Wyoming having lower vaccination rates.

On Wednesday, prior to Thursday's announcement, Gov. Brad Little announced that "The State of Idaho is exploring legal action to stop President Biden’s unprecedented government overreach into the private sector with his new COVID-19 plan. I am working closely with my legal counsel and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden on legal options to protect the rights of business owners and their employees."

Gov. Little said that while he believes President Biden's COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates show that he is "out of touch" and "only add to the divisiveness within our country," he still urges "Idahoans to choose to receive the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and other ways to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 so our kids can stay in school and for the continued health and prosperity of the people of Idaho."

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