From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: The activation of Crisis Standards of Care is a call-to-action for all Idahoans

Because of a surge in COVID-19 patients who need to be in the hospital in North Idaho, Crisis Standards of Care was activated in Idaho on Sept. 6 after a request from Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene. This was a first for Idaho.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) activated Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) in accordance with IDAPA 16.02.09 – Crisis Standards of Care For Healthcare Entities in the Panhandle Health District and the North Central Health District (Public Health Districts 1 and 2).

No one takes this step lightly. Not Kootenai Health. Not the hospitals and healthcare organizations in northern Idaho. Not the healthcare workers. And not us. However, the goal is to extend care to as many patients as possible and save as many lives as possible. It means that we have a plan for what to do when there is a limited supply of resources available.

This was something I fervently hoped to avoid, and it was a difficult day for me personally when we activated Crisis Standards of Care.

What should you do? How can you help?

First, I would tell you to be careful. Wear your seatbelt. Take your prescribed medications. This is not the time to engage in any high-risk activity that might land you in the hospital … any hospital. Although we are all focused on North Idaho healthcare facilities right now, all hospitals and healthcare facilities in the state are stretched thin. We need to protect the capacity they have for our fellow Idahoans who need immediate care or have COVID-19 that requires hospitalization. 

COVID-19 case counts continue to rise in Idaho, and 91.6 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations from May 15 – Sept. 4, 2021, were not fully vaccinated. Please choose to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public places, and stay home when you are sick. The best defense we have against COVID-19 is the vaccine, and it is safe and effective. You can read all about COVID-19 vaccine safety and monitoring on the Centers for Disease and Prevention website.

What exactly happens when a hospital implements Crisis Standards of Care?

If you require hospitalization, you may not get the care you expect. For example, there might be more patients assigned to fewer nurses. The nurse may not take your vital signs as often as you would expect. You may have to share a room or be in a room that used to be a conference room. As more patients flood the hospital, more decisions will have to be made about how to use resources that are available.

Will hospitals in North Idaho turn you away?

Although you might not get treated right away, or it might be different than what you expect or in a different place than you expect, you will still receive treatment. If the hospital doesn’t have room for you, you may be sent to another hospital. Idaho healthcare facilities are going to provide you as much care as they can and will keep you comfortable.

How can you get tested for COVID-19?

If you need to get tested for COVID-19 because of an exposure (but you aren’t sick), don’t go to the emergency room. The hospitals are overwhelmed. You can order tests to have on hand by calling the Idaho CareLine at 211, or find a testing site near you at https://get-tested-covid19.org/. Pharmacies may have over-the-counter tests available for purchase.

How can you keep up to date on COVID-19 in Idaho?

I hope you all have a safe and healthy weekend.

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