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Who gets life-saving COVID-19 medical care in Idaho? One group is figuring that out

Idaho lawmakers spike governor's health care plan
Posted at 2:02 PM, Apr 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 15:05:03-04

This article was originally published by Audrey Dutton of the Idaho Statesman.

Idaho is working on a plan to guide medical decisions in the worst-case scenario of a pandemic — when there are too many patients and not enough resources to help them all.

It could help doctors determine, for example, which patients get a ventilator and which do not.

Those kind of decisions aren’t yet a reality in Idaho. While cases of the new coronavirus in Blaine County surged past hospital capacity there, patients who needed intensive care and ventilators were able to be treated in hospitals in Boise and Twin Falls.

But that has been a reality in other countries like China and Italy, without enough ventilators for all the patients who need them. It may become a reality in New York City, whose mayor said Friday there weren’t enough ventilators and health care workers to make it through the next week.

A fraction of people who contract COVID-19 need ventilators to breathe. Many of them need to be on the ventilator for weeks.

While it has been more than seven years since a federal committee put together a framework for states to use to develop their own “crisis standards of care,” Idaho’s plan is still at least a week away from being completed.

Idaho isn’t the only one. Few states had finished their plans before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, Kaiser Health News reported.

Gov. Brad Little’s coronavirus working group expects to review Idaho’s plan in mid-April to late April, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The group developing the plan includes representatives from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, emergency medical services, the Idaho Hospital Association and the Office of Emergency Management, as well as hospital and emergency room physicians, long-term care and palliative care providers.

Other states are farther along in developing plans to allocate resources like ventilators, in the event that the new coronavirus creates too many patients in severe respiratory distress.

A committee in Colorado is finalizing its plans and expects to present them “very early next week,” the ABC affiliate TV station in Denver reported Wednesday.

New York, whose coronavirus outbreak has overwhelmed its hospitals, created a 272-page guide for ventilator allocation in 2015.