Washington state identifies guidelines to prevent activating crisis standard of care

Covid Variant

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Idaho activated crisis standard of care (CSC) due to the COVID surge, but Washington state is working to make sure it doesn’t resort to that.

Despite the surge in hospitalizations, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said partners are using strategies to stretch resources and mitigate challenges.

They said they plan to use the ethical framework developed by the National Academy of Medicine. They added it follows an ethically grounded system to guide decision-making in a crisis standards of care situation.

DOH described how the framework defines surges capacity within healthcare systems as three levels: conventional, contingency and then crisis.

According to the academy, conventional is everyday healthcare services; contingency is when demand for staff, equipment and other things begin to exceed supply. It seeks to offer functionally equivalent care; and crisis is when resources are so depleted that the functionally equivalent care can’t be offered.

The academy says crisis standards are applied when a “pervasive or catastrophic disaster make it impossible to meet usual health care standards.”

The levels of care change when disease and deaths increase. This makes it crucial that planning ensures CSC is never needed. When healthcare systems are at risk of getting overwhelmed, the academy said they should “conserve, substitute, adapt and reuse,” so that CSC is only used in extreme circumstances.

“The goal is to prevent ever having to utilize crisis standards of care anywhere in Washington,” DOH said.

DOH said it is working with state, federal and private partners to mitigate the surge by looking to volunteer and contracted resources. It it also coordinating information sharing and supporting efforts to shift patients to facilities that can best help them.

“DOH encourages Washingtonians to help by doing their part such as getting vaccinated, wearing masks in crowded or indoor public places, and taking other preventive steps,” they said.

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