Crises Standards of Care

A caregiver dons personal protective equipment (PPE) prior to entering the room of a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit at St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Nampa.

The Idaho Department of Health & Welfare announced this morning that crisis standards of care, which have been in effect for hospitals statewide since Sept. 16, are now being deactivated except for in North Idaho.

They will remain in effect in the Panhandle Health District, which includes the state's five northernmost counties. Crisis standards permit the rationing of care when patient needs exceed health care resources; they came as Idaho's hospitals faced a flood of severely ill, unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

"While the number of COVID-19 patients remains high and continues to stress healthcare systems, the surge is no longer exceeding the healthcare resources available except in north Idaho," the department announced in a news release. Idaho Press reporter Erin Banks Rusby has a full story here at (subscription required), or pick up Tuesday's Idaho Press; it's on the front page.

Areas emerging from the crisis standards are moving into "contingency operations," which IDHW said means they remain stressed with an unusually high number of patients. "It will be some time before healthcare systems return to full normal operations," IDHW said. "It also will take time for the healthcare systems to work through the many delayed surgeries and other medical treatments."

Even with the statewide crisis standards being lifted, the department said the state will continue to provide resources including healthcare personnel through FEMA and existing federal contracts "until the situation further stabilizes."

The department said it made the move based on "robust evaluation processes." Hospital operations "remained stressed, since patient volumes remain high," it said. IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen convened the Crisis Standards of Care Activation Advisory Committee on Nov. 19 to review the situation. The panel found continuing need for crisis standards in the Panhandle Health District, where "case numbers and hospitalizations remain much higher than normal."

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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