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Open hospital beds in Idaho not helpful without proper nursing staff

ICU COVID-19
Posted at 4:20 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 09:53:43-04

Idaho is in its fourth surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitals are nearing crisis standards of care. The state reported over 900 cases on Thursday and over 2,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Local health officials are urging the community to take extra safety precautions like masking up and vaccinations as the state is mirroring positive cases number we saw last winter during the peak of the pandemic.

As of Thursday, the Department of Health and Welfare (DWH) reports there are 67 open ICU beds but are these beds available if they don’t have the team to staff them?

ICU beds

“We can add a bed much easier than we can find the staff for it,” Dr. David Pate said.

Idaho hospitals are seeing more patients come in with COVID-19 than before.

“The number of patients in the ICU is the highest it's ever been at any point in the pandemic,” DWH Director Dave Jeppesen said.

DHW reports open ICU beds on their COVID-19 dashboard - but those numbers are different than generally available hospital beds.

Pate says while a bed may be available somewhere else in the hospital - it's not very helpful if you don’t have the right staff for it.

“It's not simply a matter of is there a hospital bed or is there an ICU bed. It's a question of is there the right bed with the right nursing staff,” Pate said. “If you were in labor, I can't really put you on a surgical floor you’d need to be in the labor and delivery beds. That is a much smaller number of beds. Or, God forbid, you were sick with COVID, I can't put you on L&D, I got to put you on a medical or ICU bed. So we can talk about all these beds that are available but when it comes down to an individual patient, it comes down to do we have the right type of bed for you.”

He adds hospitals and staff could be even more impacted if they end up turning to “crisis standards of care” where staff isn't able to help all patients who come through the doors.

“These health care professionals, if we get to this point, they’ll get PTSD. As doctors, we don’t decide who lives and dies, we try to help everyone,” Pate said.

“In general, our hospitals are very full, and very stressed and very near their capacity. In fact, if you would like to volunteer, to help out at a hospital, we’d welcome the public to do so,” Jeppesen said.

To see more of the state's COVID-19 data, click here.