Saint Alphonsus ICU photo 7-27-21

Severely ill COVID-19 patients are treated in the intensive care unit at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise on July 27.

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As Idaho’s hospitals and intensive-care units fill up with patients receiving costly life-saving care for an avoidable medical condition — severe COVID-19 in unvaccinated individuals — that care is taking priority over regular medical care for everything from hip replacements to cancer treatment.

Hospital leaders say that won’t change; none have any plans to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients in determining who gets treated, even as health care resources are so strained that care could end up being rationed to those most urgently in need under crisis standards of care, an unprecedented move that became reality today in both North Idaho and north-central Idaho.

The reason is at the core of medical ethics: “We teach our health care workers to give the best care they can to whoever needs it,” said Dr. Steven Joffe, chief of the Division of Medical Ethics for the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and a pediatric oncologist and bioethicist.

You can read my full story here at (subscription required), or pick up today's Idaho Press; it's on the front page.

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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