Covid Surge In The Inland Northwest Puts Pressure On Hospitals

Nov 9, 2020

Kootenai Health in Coeur d'Alene has been near or at capacity for the last several weeks.
Credit Kootenai Health

Spokane County and north Idaho combined for more than a thousand new Covid cases from Saturday-to-Monday. Most of those people will recover without needing hospital care. But the surge is putting a strain on providers throughout the region.

On Monday morning, Jeremy Evans, the executive vice president for operations at Kootenai Health, gave the Post Falls City Council a Covid report. He hadn’t yet seen the weekend numbers, but he said that, on Friday, Spokane’s and north Idaho’s hospitals had in their care nearly 120 people with the virus.

Evans’ hospital has been near or at capacity much of the last few weeks, but he says now even the Spokane hospitals are feeling the strain.

“On that day there was only two beds available, critical care beds in Spokane. So we have had challenges transferring patients or deferring patients to Spokane," he said.

Similarly, Evans said, Kootenai Health’s capacity situation, with 49 Covid patients as of Monday, has had trickle down effects for the smaller north Idaho hospitals.

“On any given day they may have one or two Covid patients in those facilities. But those facilities don’t have the level of care, the critical care levels of service that we have at Kootenai. So we really become the critical care hub for all of north Idaho," he said.

When Kootenai doesn’t have room, he says it has to adapt.

“Over the past five weeks or so, we have been unable to accept more than 52 patients from these outlying communities because we were full. About a third of these were Covid-related patients, but two-thirds were other, chest pain, cardiac, sepsis, abdominal bleeds, trauma, respiratory failures, stroke patients, who were not able to accept," Evans said.

He says Kootenai has had to postpone at least 30 surgical procedures.

Evans says the hospital has had more than 250 employees test positive for Covid, 87 of them still in quarantine. Replacing them has been tough. He says the hospital has nearly 400 open positions. He says critical care nurses are in demand all over the country.