Slammed Idaho Hospitals Now Allowed to Ration Care

Idaho Department of Health's designation includes 10 hospitals, healthcare systems
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 8, 2021 8:07 AM CDT
Slammed Idaho Hospitals Now Allowed to Ration Care
In this Aug. 31, 2021, file photo, Ann Enderle R.N. checks on a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit (MICU) at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.   (AP Photo/Kyle Green, File)

Idaho public health leaders have activated "crisis standards of care" allowing health care rationing for the state's northern hospitals because there are more coronavirus patients than the institutions can handle. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare quietly enacted the move Monday and publicly announced it in a statement Tuesday morning—warning residents that they may not get the care they would normally expect if they need to be hospitalized. The state health agency cited "a severe shortage of staffing and available beds in the northern area of the state caused by a massive increase in patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization." Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the US. More from the AP:

  • What's affected. The designation includes 10 hospitals and healthcare systems in the Idaho panhandle and in north-central Idaho. The agency said its goal is to extend care to as many patients as possible and to save as many lives as possible.
  • For instance. The move allows hospitals to allot scarce resources like intensive care unit rooms to patients most likely to survive. Other patients will still receive care, but they may be placed in hospital classrooms or conference rooms or go without some life-saving medical equipment.
  • For instance, II. In the ICU at Kootenai Health—the largest hospital in northern Idaho—Dr. Robert Scoggins says one critical care nurse might be supervising up to six patients with the help of two other non-critical care nurses. That's a big departure from the usual one ICU nurse for one ICU patient ratio.
  • For instance, III. Urgent and elective surgeries are on hold, Scoggins said, and Kootenai Health is struggling to accept any of the high-level trauma patients that would normally be transferred from smaller hospitals in the region.
  • Following Idaho's lead. Other states are preparing to take similar measures if needed. Hawaii Gov. David Ige quietly signed an order last week releasing hospitals and health care workers from liability if they have to ration health care.
  • From the governor. On Tuesday, Gov. Brad Little called the move to limit care “an unprecedented and unwanted point in the history of our state” and urged residents to get vaccinated against coronavirus.
(More coronavirus stories.)

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