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Magic Valley ICU doctor shortage takes its toll on local hospitals

Posted at 4:20 PM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-07 18:33:14-05

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — During the pandemic, ICU hospital staffing shortages were brought to the forefront. With Idaho ranking as one of the last states nationally for doctors per capita, ICU doctors are no exception.

During COVID-19 surges the shortage of ICU doctors took a toll on hospitals. St. Luke’s Magic Valley ICUs receive support form Boise’s ICU team through telehealth options. However, Boise’s team was also overwhelmed with the volume of patients they saw during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, local hospitals did their best to stay afloat.

“We’ve really kind of held on for dear life through most of our surges where our numbers of ICU patients has gotten above what we would normally be staffed for, it requires everyone to work extra,” said Dr. Josh Kern, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s, Magic Valley.

Medical staff have been the ones feeling the shortage the most.

“Our nurses were normally staffed to take care of around six ICU patients and while we’re routinely running double or triple those volumes they are having to work extra shifts and we’re having to pull ICU nurses out of other areas to maintain safe patient care,” said Kern.

This shortage is partly to do with the proximity to where doctors receive their training, according to Kern.

“The main issue I would say is, we are very far from training locations for that type of doctor, and most of the data shows that doctors end up settling in relatively close proximity to where they do their residency training,” said Dr. Kern.

St. Luke’s is continuing their recruitment efforts to bring more doctors and nurses to the Magic Valley area.