North Idaho is now in a "crisis standard of care" and state health officials warn that the rest of the state soon could be as well, if more people don’t get vaccinated.
Kootenai Health has expanded its emergency room and turned conference rooms into COVID wards – and is still struggling to address its normal workload and the massive Delta Variant surge of new coronavirus patients.
“So we were having space issues before we were hit with this surge. And so now we’ve backed off of surgeries, we’re only doing emergent surgeries, and urgent and elective surgeries are on hold at this time, and so things that we would normally take care of very quickly, we may have to hold that off until we get more resources available for those patients," said Robert Scoggins, the chief of staff at Kootenai Health. He said the hospital has had a continuous stream of COVID patients for over a year and is now at capacity with the latest surge.
David Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said under normal circumstances, Kootenai Health could rely on Spokane for additional beds, but Spokane County hospitals are full. He said the crisis standard of care designation allows hospitals in North Idaho to make decisions to save the highest number of people.
“Some of you may be wondering what does this mean for you, particularly if you live in North Idaho. What it means if you go to the hospital, you should expect a longer wait time. You may not bee seen a traditional space, you may be seen in a classroom, or a hallway, or you may be sent to a different hospital that has more capacity. The situation across the state is not much better," he said.
Healthcare providers are urging people to get vaccinated, and wear masks. They’re also asking people to avoid activities that could lead to an accident and emergency room visit.
Jeppesen said people are already seeing long waits in North Idaho, and if the Delta variant’s trajectory doesn’t change, it will become a problem statewide.