Even with federal staffing resources, Kootenai Health still doesn’t have enough staff for patients

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Doctors have been warning about the patient surge for months. A lack of beds and not enough staffing have pushed North Idaho hospitals to operate at ‘Crisis Standards of Care.’

For the first time since the pandemic began, the Department of Defense has deployed 20 healthcare workers, 14 nurses, four physicians and two respiratory therapists arrived at Kootenai Health to support the staffing issue.

Dr. Robert Scoggins, Chief of Staff is frustrated for his fellow physicians, nurses and staff.

“Just the emotional trauma you see day after day, it wears on you time after time, and really it wears on you. And we’ve been doing this for a year and a half and our unit’s been open for over a year, and that hasn’t changed,” he said.

The hospital is over their capacity for COVID patients. They’ve added space in their emergency room and their converted conference room, but it’s staffing that’s still an issue.

“Our biggest limitation at Kootenai Health has been the number of staff we have to cover the additional surge of COVID patients and maintain urgent and emergent services for our entire community,” said Jeremy Evans, Chief Regional Operations Officer.

Twenty members from the Department of Defense are now in the hospital. Maj. Ian McInnis is one of four doctor’s deployed.

“We’re really fortunate to be here and provide some much needed off-loading of that stress on this local system, hoping to be able to provide a little bit of room to breathe,” he said.

The hospital has 550 positions open right now. Around half of them are for clinical positions, so even with an extra 100 workers on the way it’s still not going to solve the issue.

“We’re at risk of getting more patients and that’s our concern as schools open, and there’s no mitigation in place for our school systems, at this point and I’m concerned about what’s going to happen in the next few weeks,” Dr. Scoggins said.

Right now, given the current situation, Panhandle Health District’s spokesperson said that any help is better than none.

“Any moving of the needle to help Kootenai Health right now is really what we want to help with, what the state wants to help with, absolutely appreciative of the 20 that they’ve been able to accommodate but Kootenai Health has requested hundreds,” Hoyer said.

The hospital is usually staffed in the ICU for 26 beds. Right now, they have about 40 patients in their ICUs, and they’re anticipating it to get even worse. Unless the number of patients flattens, they will not be reverting the Crisis Standards of Care they’re now operating at anytime soon.

PREVIOUS: Kootenai Health to receive more government help to care for COVID patients

RELATED: ‘A last resort’: Crisis standards of care activated in North Idaho as region struggles to keep up with COVID surge