IDHW director encourages community to take safety precautions after board approves temporary crisis rule

Posted at 10:56 AM, Dec 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 10:02:30-05

IDAHO — On Friday, state health officials said Idaho hospitals have never activated crisis standards of care, but to address the current situation health systems are facing, the Idaho Department of Health Welfare (IDHW) board approved a temporary rule would allow them to do so if the time comes.

"If we get to the point that we exhausted all resources, We would convene the Crisis Standard of Care Activation Advisory Committee. We would review what the situation was, and that committee would make a recommendation whether it's time to activate crisis standards of care or not," said Dave Jeppesen, director of IDHW.

Hospital leaders, the Idaho Office of Emergency Management, public health districts, and other health agencies make up this new advisory committee. Depending on the advisory committee's recommendation, it would then go to the director of IDHW for approval.

Jepesen said about 20 percent of the state hospitals are operating normally, but most of them are strained.

"About 80 percent of our hospitals are operating what you would call contingency circumstances. What that means they are doing things that are not compromising care in any way but a little different than normal," he said.

Some large hospitals say they're overwhelmed and experiencing staff shortages, and with cases rising, the board decided to act.

"Idaho has suffered for many years from a shortage qualified doctors and nurses, and during the pandemic, many of them being out sick, having Covid themselves, or having been exposed to covid," Jeppesen explained.

Health officials say they want to be ready. But activating crisis standards of care is a last resort because it could impact medical care for some patients.

"My plea is that all of the Idahoans to please wear a mask, stay 6 feet apart and stay home if you're sick. That's the very best way that we have to avoid entering a crisis of standard of care situation," Jeppesen said.

The temporary rule takes effect immediately and would expire sometime next year after the legislative session.