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Idaho’s ICU Beds Fill Up as St. Luke’s Pauses Procedures
Wednesday, September 1, 2021


Gov. Brad Little announced Tuesday that he is activating 150 Idaho National Guardsmen to help hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

The governor is also directing 200 new medical personnel provided by the U.S. General Services Administration and a 20-person Department of Defense medical response team to hospitals around the state as a last-ditch effort to avoid activating statewide crisis standards of care where doctors are forced to prioritize which patients to treat based on their survival prospects and other factors.

Little said activating crisis standards of care would be a historic step that means “Idahoans in need of healthcare could receive a lesser standard of care or may be turned away altogether.” The real solution, he said, is more Idahoans choosing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

There were just four empty ICU beds available in the entire state on Tuesday morning. And other spaces that hospitals have converted into ICUs are filling up, as well.

The state’s COVID-19 dashboard showed there were 496 people hospitalized with COVID-19—a record 160 of them in ICUs and 76 of those on ventilators. In response, the Boise Veterans Administration Hospital has offered four of its 10 ICU beds and five other beds to civilian patients from other hospitals.

The average age of the patients in Boise is 43, said Little, who visited a Boise ICU Monday night.

“All of them were struggling to breathe and most were only breathing with the help of a machine,” he said, noting that two of the patients were pregnant. “And every one of the COVID patients in that unit were unvaccinated.”

St. Luke’s Health System has again paused certain elective inpatient and outpatient surgeries and procedures requiring overnight stays starting Sept. 1 as the state’s positivity level soars to 26 percent. The pause affects Boise, Meridian, Nampa and Elmore hospitals. Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise and Nampa also has paused non-emergency surgeries requiring overnight stays because its beds are full.

St. Luke’s Magic Valley is extending its pause on elective surgeries requiring overnight stays. And beginning Thursday, Sept. 2, the Twin Falls hospital will cut back on certain elective outpatient surgeries and procedures to free staff up to attend to other needs.

St. Luke’s Wood River and McCall will not cancel currently scheduled elective surgeries and procedures for now. Wood River has been busy dispensing as many as 80 and 85 COVID tests a day.

Dr. Frank Johnson, chief medical officer for St. Luke’s Boise/Elmore/McCall called the decision to cut back surgeries and procedures a proactive one.

“Due to the rapidly escalating COVID surge throughout our community, we are doing all we can to ensure we have capacity to support growing inpatient volumes of both COVID and non-COVID patients,” he said. “Our hospitalizations due to COVID have risen to levels higher than our peak last fall, including a record number of patients in our ICU’s.

“We know that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing death and serious illness,” he added. “We encourage anyone who is eligible and not yet vaccinated to take the important step of getting a COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and others.”  

 At least one Idaho college has taken that message to heart.

The College of Southern Idaho, which has a campus in Hailey, announced Tuesday that it is offering its students a $100 cash payment should they become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before Oct. 15, 2021. A spokesman said its goal is to stay open.

The state reported 1,226 new cases of the virus on Tuesday with 2,363 official deaths since the pandemic began. That's the most in a single day since January. There were 32 new deaths on Tuesday--one, an individual between 18 and 29 years of age.Four others were in their 30s and 40s.


Primary Health Medical Group, which operates 21 clinics in the Treasure Valley, closed an hour early Tuesday because of a surge of patients. The group had more than 2,000 patients that day--more than 75 percent of them seeking evaluation or testing for COVID, according to KTVB.

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