IDAHO — Idaho reached another grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic as Crisis Standards of Care have been activated statewide on September 16th, due to the increased number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
Just in the previous week, Crisis Standards of Care was activated for the first time ever in the state’s history in north Idaho, but now across the state hospitals are strained and all existing resources are exhausted.
According to the Department of Health and Welfare, since May 2021, 91% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations were among individuals not fully vaccinated.
Although activated across the state, hospitals can implement the plan as needed according to their own Crisis Standards of Care policies. St. Luke's Health System requested for the Crisis Standards of Care plan to be activated.
“We are being overwhelmed with patient volumes today,” CEO of St. Luke’s Health System Chris Roth said. “If we continue this course over the next several weeks, St. Luke’s health system will become a COVID health system.”
Saint Alphonsus says they are seeing much of the same as the rest of the Treasure Valley’s health care systems.
“We too are at the maximum capacity of providing care without stretching our team further and further and further,” Chief Medical Officer for Saint Alphonsus Health System Dr. Steven Nemerson said.
The surge of unvaccinated patients needing hospitalization and regular health situations has exhausted the supply of staff and pushed Idaho hospitals to the brink with some using crisis standards of care guidelines.
“We are being absolutely crushed by COVID,” Roth said.
“Crisis Standards of Care is activated when the ability to provide a reasonable community standard of care is exhausted and that’s the state, we find ourselves in right now,” Nemerson said.
These guidelines outline how health care systems will use a triage system based on their space and staff capacities. Staff will have to use “objective inclusion criteria to evaluate patients needing higher or lower levels of care.”
“While we’re not at this point and to my knowledge, not a single patient in the state of Idaho has been taken off a life-support therapy in order to provide that therapy to another patient who has a better prognosis, while it has yet to occur if we continue this path, it will,” Nemerson said.
Idaho is still near the bottom when it comes to vaccination rates, with only 50% of the state's population ages 12 and up are vaccinated.
“Largely the biggest thing we hear is I didn’t think would happen to me,” Chief Physician Executive for St. Luke’s Health System Dr. Jim Souza said. “If my husband, if my wife, son daughter had been vaccinated, would this have happened? And the answer is no. It wouldn’t have,” Souza said.
Although the Department of Health and Welfare activated Crisis Standards of Care, not all hospitals have implemented it. They are now able to follow these guidelines, if needed.