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St. Luke's high capacity poses challenge for staff

Posted at 7:12 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 21:49:53-04

TWIN FALLS — The South Central Public Health District reported multiple local area hospitals are witnessing a significant impact from a variety of factors, both non-COVID-19 and COVID-19 related.

St. Luke's Magic Valley is one of the many hospitals statewide having to face these issues head-on as they now face another surge of COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

One of these challenges St. Luke's is having to face is the number of people that require an available ICU bed, but there is limited space.

There are 14 patients currently in the ICU at St. Luke's Magic Valley, 13 of which have COVID-19, and 11 of them are on ventilators. While it may not sound like a lot, officials explained how they have already had to enlarge their ICU unit to accommodate more people.

“We have already expanded out of our normal ICU beds into other beds that were now converted into ICU beds," said Dr. Joshu Kern, the chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Magic Valley. "We’re already above what would normally be our ICU onto other areas.”

It can make it even more of a challenge since ICUs need to be worked on by specialized nurses.

Currently, there are roughly 180 patients at St. Luke's, 55 of which are there for COVID-19, and the remaining patients are there for other medical purposes. Although St. Luke's does have sufficient staffing, the sheer number of patients that currently occupy the building has made it difficult to meet the demand.

“Because of these high volumes of patients, we’re already pushing nursing ratios," said Kern. "Meaning we’re having nurses take care of more patients than we would normally want them to provide what we would consider optimal care in the hospital.”

Tomorrow also marks the deadline for St. Luke's employees to receive their first dose of the vaccine. However, officials do not think it will impact staffing any further.

“We’ve seen an incredible number of people get their vaccines since that was announced," said Kern. "A lot of the people who were going to leave have already left. So, I think we’re working through some of the people getting medical waivers and exemptions and those kinds of things.”

As hospitals across the state near the threshold of crisis levels of care, St. Luke's is not there yet. Although, they have begun to take precautionary measures such as postponing certain elective surgeries to meet the demand of both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

“If we couldn’t take care of them, we would find another hospital to send them to," said Kern. "But once the crisis standards of care threshold are met within the state, then we would be having to triage patients and potentially have a process for deciding who would get care and who would not get care.”