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Crisis Standards of Care Again Enacted in Southern Idaho
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Tuesday, January 25, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Idaho activated Crisis Standards of Care for the second time in five months Monday, Jan. 24, in South Central Public Health District, which oversees Blaine County.

But St. Luke’s Wood River and other St. Luke’s hospitals are not currently operating under Crisis Standards of Care guidelines.

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare activated Crisis Standards of Care in three public health districts at the request of Saint Alphonsus Health System.

The three health districts are in southern Idaho and are South Central District Health; Southwest District Health, which oversees such areas as Nampa, Caldwell and Payette, and Central District Health, which oversees Boise and Mountain Home.

Other regions of the state are likely to move into Crisis Standards of Care if current COVID-19 trends continue, said Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen.

Crisis Standards of Care, designed to help healthcare providers decide how to deliver the best care under extraordinary circumstances, were enacted because resources in some hospitals have become limited to the point of affecting medical care.

A high number of clinical and non-clinical staff have contracted COVID-19 and there are no substitutes available due to a nation-wide staffing shortage limiting the ability of hospitals to contract traveling staff. Some hospitals don’t have enough staff to maintain intensive care beds and provide the usual standard of care.

Additionally, a nationwide shortage of blood and blood products is impacting healthcare systems, forcing most hospitals to implement blood conservation strategies, according to Idaho Health and Welfare.

Under Crisis Standards of Care, patients may find hospital beds are not available or are in repurposed rooms, such as conference rooms. Patients may have to wait for a bed to open or be moved to another hospital in or out of state.

“The highly contagious Omicron variant has thrown us a curve ball,” said Jeppesen. “Once again the situation in our hospitals and health system is dire—we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat patients.”

Jeppesen urged Idahoans to get vaccinated and boosted and wear a high-quality protective mask in public places.

“Omicron is so much more contagious than previous variants and, even though a lower percentage of cases are ending up in the hospital, the record number of cases is still putting strain on our healthcare system,” he said.

Hospitals are permitted to implement Crisis Standards of Care as needed and according to their own policies. While the activation area encompasses St. Luke’s Health System’s footprint, St. Luke’s is not currently operating in Crisis Standards of Care, St. Luke’s officials said.

“Though St. Luke's continues to face similar challenges of staffing shortages and the nationwide blood supply shortage as we operate at contingency standards of care, this activation does not require changes to St. Luke’s current operations,” the health care system said in a statement. “It does give us the flexibility to adjust as our situation requires. We continue to monitor staffing, patient volumes and capacity for care.”

Those needing health care from St. Luke’s Wood River or other St. Luke’s hospitals and health clinics should continue to seek it as needed, said Joy Prudek, public relations manager for St. Luke’s Wood River.

Crisis Standards of Care will remain in effect until there are sufficient resources to provide the usual standard of care to all patients.

Crisis Standards of Care were first activated in Idaho in the Panhandle Health District of northern Idaho on Sept. 6, 2021. They were expanded to the entire state Sept. 16, as Idaho became one of the first states to activate crisis standards statewide. And on Nov. 22 they were deactivated in all but the Panhandle Health District. They were finally deactivated in the Panhandle Health District in December 2020.

HOW GOES BLAINE COUNTY?

Blaine County reported 326 new cases of coronavirus over the past nine days for an average of 35 new cases a day. The number, which brings the county to a total of 4,628 cases since the pandemic began. But that is likely an incomplete picture since thousands of positive cases in Idaho have not been entered into the COVID dashboard.

More than 37,000 positive lab tests from the past two weeks are still waiting to be reviewed and added to the state's COVID-19 dashboard.


 

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