TWIN FALLS — Within the past couple of weeks, COVID case numbers and hospitalizations have continued to rise. St. Luke's Magic Valley is experiencing the brunt of this most recent spike.
There are currently 43 COVID patients that are now in St. Luke's. By today's count, there was a total of 135 patients, with COVID patients making up 31% of the hospital's overall patients.
Dr. Joshua Kern, Vice President of Medical Affairs for St. Luke's, said, "Our total census remains very high, so it's putting a lot of squeeze on our staff, our doctors, our nurses, and trying to juggle taking care of all of the patients."
With such a high influx of COVID hospitalizations, nearly all staff is working to treat those patients. However, the hospital staff itself is experiencing problems due to other coworkers being out for having COVID. The hospital has reached out and has utilized telehealth services from other St. Luke's physicians in other areas, particularly Boise, but the work is still very draining for those on shift.
Emily Jones, a Charge Nurse for the Cardiopulmonary team for St. Luke's said, "There's a lot of people coming and wanting to help out, but with that comes the fact that you're for four or five days, six days sometimes. That's a lot for people to have to handle just trying to pick up for the people that are missing."
With such a high number of COVID patients, regular patients needing the ER, as well as limited staff, the hospital is nearing full capacity. These factors could result in the hospital having to turn away incoming patients regardless of having COVID or needing other primary treatment.
"We would be talking about sending patients up to Boise until if, and when they were getting full and we've already been having difficulties with their total capacity as well. Just from winter ramping up and the total patients they're having, not even just COVID," said Kern.
If both St. Luke's in the Magic Valley and Boise were to reach full capacity, the medical facilities would be forced to send patients to other clinics, potentially out of state in the worst-case scenario.
While the workload has been challenging and overwhelming, the hospital's staff has been trying to keep its morale high to treat all patients. "We've got a really great team that they've been sticking it out, and they've just been really positive about most of it. But we definitely have our days when we're ready to be done with it, and we're ready to see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Jones.
St. Luke's is asking the public to try its best to remain vigilant and practice safety protocols over the next few weeks and upcoming months to limit exposure. As well as to help flatten the curve of COVID hospitalizations so that they will not have to turn anyone seeking treatment away.