What does crisis standard of care mean?

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho– It’s something you’ve probably heard about or seen in the headlines lately: Some Idaho hospitals are implementing crisis standards of care.

For Kootenai Health, this is the first time in its history it’s had to do so. The reason behind it now is the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

So, what exactly does it mean?

“Crisis standards of care” is defined by the National Center for Biotechnology Information as a “substantial change in usual healthcare operations and the level of care it is possible to deliver, which is made necessary by a pervasive (e.g., pandemic influenza) or catastrophic (e.g., earthquake, hurricane) disaster.”

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Dr. Dave Jeppesen said patients may experience higher wait times at the hospital. If they are admitted, they may be treated in a classroom instead of a normal hospital room. If there is no space for them, they may be sent to a different hospital.

The latest data from the IDHW shows the majority of people being diagnosed with COVID, being hospitalized with the virus and dying from it are unvaccinated.

Data taken from May 15 to September 4 shows that 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in Idaho were in unvaccinated people. Additionally, 91.6 percent of COVID hospitalizations and 88.7 percent of deaths involved unvaccinated people.

The Panhandle and North Central Health Districts are the first to implement crisis standards of care, but Jeppesen the rest of the state is dangerously close.

Dr. Robert Scoggins, Chief of Staff and Medical Director of Critical Care at Kootenai Health, said they converted 32 surgical beds into ICU beds last year in preparation for a situation like this. They are currently staffing one ICU nurse to six patients.

“It’s not ideal care,” he said.

Scoggins also said they built out part of the Kootenai Health ER lobby to see more patients with individual bays. They are in the process of expanding the ER to a different area of the hospital and have added physicians and nurses into roles they don’t normally perform.

The Idaho National Guard and Department of Defense have been deployed to help hospitals with the surge. This is the first time the DOD has deployed medical assets to support Idaho during the pandemic.

Health officials agree that the best way to help the situation is for more people to get vaccinated. Though vaccines do not necessarily reduce COVID transmission, they are reducing symptoms among those who experience breakthrough cases.

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