Idaho rations health care statewide as COVID surge continues

In this photo provided by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, U.S. Army Capt. Corrine Brown, a critical care nurse, administers an anti-viral medication to a COVID-19 positive patient at Kootenai Health regional medical center during response operations in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Sept. 6, 2021. Roughly 11,000 kids in Coeur d'Alene were getting ready for their first day of school when Idaho public health officials announced this week that northern hospitals were so crowded with coronavirus patients that they would be allowed to ration health care. Kootenai Health has had to move some patients into a conference room and get help from the military to deal with the flood of coronavirus patients. (Michael H. Lehman/DVIDS U.S. Navy/via AP)

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho public health leaders on Thursday expanded health care rationing statewide amid a massive increase in the number of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare made the announcement after St. Luke’s Health System, Idaho’s largest hospital network, on Wednesday asked state health leaders to allow “crisis standards of care” because the increase in COVID-19 patients has exhausted the state’s medical resources.

Crisis care standards mean that scarce resources like ICU beds will be allotted to the patients most likely to survive. Other patients will be treated with less effective methods or, in dire cases, given pain relief and other palliative care.

Thursday’s move came a week after Idaho officials started allowing health care rationing at hospitals in northern parts of the state.

The situation is dire – we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident,” Idaho Department of Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said in statement.

He urged people to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor settings.

Our hospitals and healthcare systems need our help. The best way to end crisis standards of care is for more people to get vaccinated. It dramatically reduces your chances of having to go to the hospital if you do get sick from COVID-19,” Jeppesen said.

One in every 201 Idaho residents tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The mostly rural state ranks 12th in the U.S. for new cases per capita, and is among the least vaccinated states nationwide.

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