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What it's like at St. Luke's following Crisis Standards of Care ending announcement

Posted at 6:17 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 10:03:31-05

TWIN FALLS — Last week, the Department of Health and Welfare announced Crisis Standards of Care were ending in the majority of the state. Hospitals in northern Idaho are still dealing with a high number of COVID-19 patients.

“It was really stressful as we tried to take care of our communities, our patients, and our colleagues; everyone was really tired through this," said Dr. Frank Johnson, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s. "It’s been a nice breath of fresh air to have Crisis Standards of Care deactivated.”

Many hospitals are now working to get back on track. However, it's been a challenge because, despite the decreasing COVID-19 case numbers, they're still very busy trying to treat others.

“We’re trying to catch up with the surgeries and procedures that had to be delayed, and so that's creating some additional volumes in our hospitals, but it’s nice to see those normal types of cases come through," said Johnson. "We do now have some capacity in our ICUs and in our general medical floors.”

The drop in COVID-19 patients started around two and a half weeks ago. Across the St. Luke's system, there were over 300 patients that were in the hospital for COVID-19 complications. Johnson shared that as of earlier today, there were roughly 70 patients across the St. Luke's system that were in the hospital for COVID-19.

Many hospitals statewide are still experiencing a high volume of patients unrelated to COVID-19, yet they have now the resources to treat effectively. For St. Luke's, one resource they're struggling to maintain is staffing. Yet, officials are working to try and close that gap.

“We continue to look for travelers, traveling nurses, or those from other parts of the country who can come in for a period of time and help, maybe short-term needs," said Johnson. "We continue to use travelers and that’s been one strategy that we’re using to help with the surgical specialties to try and help get caught up. That's a short-term solution, so we're continuing to work to develop longer-term strategies.”

There are efforts in place to try and get more staff on board. St. Luke's has made improvements to benefits and compensation for employees. They're also working with schools of nursing to help properly train the next generation and get them in as soon as possible.

Although Crisis Standards of Care are ending for this region of the state, health officials want it known that it does not mean COVID-19 is over and there is still the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed once again.

“Every time somebody gets sick with COVID-19 the possibility that that virus will mutate within their system and come out as another variant, it gets stronger, we have more chance of that happening and we do see that happen," said Brianna Bodily, spokesperson for South Central Public Health District. "We do have several variants out there, some are of little concern, some are of higher concern.”

To try and ensure hospitals do not experience another wave of COVID-19 patients, they're encouraging people to keep taking preventive measures as often as possible.

“Think about what you do every day to prevent disease of all kinds and implement a couple of extra strategies," said Bodily. "That’s everything from just little steps like making sure you’re washing hands diligently, before you eat, right after touching commonly touched surfaces.”