Kootenai Health converts conference room to patient room as COVID-19 hospitalizations spike

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and the unvaccinated are helping spread the virus. On Wednesday, 96 people are in the hospital with COVID-19 at Kootenai Health, the most it has ever had.

Elective surgeries have already been stopped and even the COVID floor has doubled up patients in each room. However, hospital leaders say there are just too many patients coming in.

“For the last several weeks, we’ve been admitting between 12 and 16 COVID patients a day. We’re able to discharge a little less than that. Each day, the census keeps climbing,” said Dr. Karen Cabell, chief physician executive.

The previous record was set in December, with 91 patients. A majority of them coming in now are unvaccinated and younger than 60. Doctors say they’re spending more time in the hospital.

“Many of the patients are younger and they have fewer comorbidities. Within the last week in a 36-hour time frame, we had 3 people die under 45 and they were healthy individuals before they presented to the hospital,” Cabell said.

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They’re trying to find more room in the hospital to treat them all.

“So, we have already taken all of the steps very aggressively to find more beds by reducing elective surgeries,” Cabell said. “We’ve re-adjusted staff to man those beds. Now, our issue is that we’re out of beds and staff, which is why we had to expand to these conference rooms.”

They converted a large conference room into three separate patient rooms, adding 22 beds dedicated to treating coronavirus patients. It also groups the coronavirus patients together.

“We continue to seek additional staff to care for these patients. If we occupy this space, we will be moving into team models of care here. It won’t be the same as the hospital, but we’ll make sure that we can do the best that we can,” said Chief Regional Operations Officer Jeremy Evans.

They’re expecting the number of patients to rise even more. They are looking at options to create even more space, reaching out to other hospitals in the area and possibly having tents, if need be.

PAST COVERAGE: Record number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Kootenai Health