With Cases Surging, Idaho Doctors Say Health Care Workers Are Tired

Oct 26, 2020

Dr. Andy Wilper from the Boise VA Hospital says his facility is trying to recruit health care workers to come and help care for Covid patients.
Credit Idaho Public TV screenshot

The surge in the number of coronavirus cases in Idaho has doctors speaking up about the strain they and their colleagues are experiencing.

At the governor’s news conference on Monday, Dr. Andy Wilper brought some ominous news from his hospital, the Boise V-A.

“Presently, there is an outbreak of the disease at the Idaho State Veterans’ Home and record numbers of patients admitted to our acute care hospital that are threatening our ability to maintain hospital operations," Wilper said. "This outbreak has become so pronounced that we’re working with our regional and national partners to identify health care workers to travel to Boise to help care for our patients.”

Dr. Josh Kern had a similar story from his home community, Jerome.

“The burden, the recent surge of patients we’re seeing really may not be possible to keep up with," he said.

Kern is a family doctor in the St. Luke’s Health System in southern Idaho’s Magic Valley. He says health care workers are worn out after seven months of working with coronavirus patients.

“Ask one of them how things are going in the hospital at St. Luke’s Magic Valley and you’ll hear that we’re reaching a critical tipping point," he said. "Nurses are having to work extra shifts. The acuity, or the sickness level, of the Covid patients is very high, almost as if an ICU patient, but we don’t have room in the ICU, so they’re on the regular medical floor and it’s very burdensome. People are getting very tired and it only seems to be getting worse.”

Kern says the number of patients in his hospital hit a new high over the weekend. He says it’s the same for other hospitals in southern and eastern Idaho. In Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai Health last week reported a similar story, very nearly full of patients. On Monday, it reported caring for 35 Covid patients.

Kern hopes the situation doesn’t get as dire as it appears to be in other Western cities.

“Salt Lake City today [Monday] announcing that they’re potentially having to ration ICU care for patients, meaning health care providers now have to decide who lives and dies," Kern said.

He says some Idaho hospitals may soon have to make similar decisions.

Kern and Wilper say people who doubt the coronavirus is a serious disease are wrong. And they urged people to take the necessary steps to keep the disease from being spread.