The Department of Health and Welfare announced Thursday that Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) was being implemented statewide. The decision came after St. Luke’s Health System requested that CSC be activated.
The CSC Activation Advisory Committee met late Wednesday afternoon, and the decision was made to activate early Thursday morning. It was a thoughtful, heart-wrenching decision. No one wants this, but this is where we are. Our hospitals and healthcare systems have reached their resource limits. There is simply too much demand for care from people who are sick with COVID-19. There are not enough beds, rooms, staff or other resources for Idahoans who need hospitalization. CSC was the absolute last resort. The situation is dire in Idaho.
Although CSC was activated statewide by the Department of Health and Welfare, the hospitals will implement according to their own policies and available resources. Each hospital will make patient-care decisions based on the current situation at each hospital.
After our announcement early yesterday, the Idaho Hospital Association, St. Luke’s Health System, Saint Alphonsus Health System, Minidoka Memorial Hospital, and Portneuf Medical Center held a press conference in the afternoon.
At that press conference:
- President and CEO Brian Whitlock, Idaho Hospital Association, noted that we are in “uncharted waters.” He reminded us that at some of Idaho’s hospitals the demand has outstripped the available resources.
- President and CEO Chris Roth, St. Luke’s Health System, described the St. Luke’s system as being “crushed by COVID” as they continue to see record levels of patient volumes and COVID-positive patients. He added, “This pandemic is relentless … we are exhausted.” He encouraged Idahoans to get vaccinated, wear a mask, and do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
- Chief Operating Officer Sandee Gehrke, St. Luke’s Health System, described ICU nurses caring for three patients instead of the community standard of 1 or 2. She talked about unprecedented volumes of patients, non-clinical teams working bedside, and overflow morgues because so many patients are dying.
- Dr. Jim Souza, chief physician executive at St. Luke’s Health System, reminded us that in normal situations, the capacity meets demand. But today, demand far exceeds capacity and the hospitals and healthcare systems can’t provide expected care. There is a deterioration of standards of care, and the healthcare workers are using more basic care. He added, “These are real people who are dying; not statistics.”
- Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer at St. Alphonsus Health System, said ”…reasonable community standard of care is exhausted.” Even with this situation, he reassured Idahoans that the hospitals are here for all patients and all communities. He encouraged Idahoans to not avoid emergency care or needed surgeries. He noted that not a single patient has been taken off of life support to help a patient with a better prognosis, but it will happen if we stay on this same track.
I could go on and on, but I would encourage you to watch the media briefing and better understand what our hospitals, healthcare systems, and healthcare workers are facing every day. They are sharing the truth and the reality of our situation in Idaho. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/ybyP9wCVCqs
Emotions are running high. It is heartbreaking.
These medical professionals are seeing firsthand what is happening in our hospitals and healthcare systems. We all have a responsibility to do what we can for our communities, friends, and family. In normal situations, we have the capacity to meet the demand. In this situation, our hospitals and healthcare systems are struggling and sometimes not able to meet the demand.
We can’t change what has already happened, but we can all do our part to protect our hospitals and healthcare systems.
The best way to end crisis standards of care is for more people to get vaccinated. It dramatically reduces your chances of having to go to the hospital if you do get sick from COVID-19. In addition, please wear a mask indoors in public and outdoors when it’s crowded to help slow the spread.
What does this mean for you?
If, for any reason, you need to be hospitalized, your ability to receive care in a hospital will likely be affected. It may look very different than how you have received care in the past. We don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a stroke or because of a car accident
If you go to the hospital, you could:
- Receive care in a hospital room that was previously used as a classroom, or in a hallway or a tent.
- Have to share a nurse with more patients.
- Wait many hours for care or be transferred to a hospital that could be hours away.
- Not be prioritized for the limited resources (such as a bed or a ventilator) or treatments available. In other words, patients with a greater likelihood of surviving their illness may be given a critical care bed or ventilator over patients less likely to survive.
The crisis within our hospitals and healthcare systems is being caused by the massive influx of COVID-19 patients who need hospitalization. Please choose to get vaccinated. It is safe and effective, and it is the best defense we have against COVID-19. As of Sept. 14:
- More than 89 percent of cases in Idaho are among those who are not fully vaccinated.
- More than 91 percent of people who are hospitalized are not fully vaccinated.
- More than 88 percent of those who have died from COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated.
I can’t express enough how difficult this week has been for many people in Idaho, and especially for all the healthcare workers who are working tirelessly to care for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 (and other healthcare crises). We owe it to them, and to our communities, to choose to get vaccinated.
For more information on Crisis Standards of Care, read the Sept. 16 news release or visit https://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/crisis-standards-care
I hope all of you have a safe and healthy weekend. If you’re out and about in public, please remember your mask.