Community Hospital COVID-19 (copy)

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced Sept. 7, 2021, that it declared Crisis Standards of Care in North Idaho. In this Dec. 7, 2020, file photo, staff talk about a patient being treated in the intensive care unit for COVID-19 at Idaho Falls Community Hospital.

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The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare declared a hospital resource crisis throughout northern Idaho due to a “massive” surge in COVID-19 patients, the agency announced in a news release Tuesday.

The formal crisis declaration is known as activating Crisis Standards of Care. Crisis Standards of Care is a formalized plan to ration scarce and potentially life-saving resources with a focus toward saving those with the best chances of survival. The state health department said in a Tuesday news release that the plan seeks to “extend care to as many patients as possible.”

Under crisis standards, hospital beds may be unavailable or in repurposed rooms like conference rooms, the news release said. Needed equipment may be unavailable, the release said.

“Crisis standards of care is a last resort. It means we have exhausted our resources to the point that our healthcare systems are unable to provide the treatment and care we expect,” said state health department Director Dave Jeppesen, who enacted the crisis plan Monday. “This is a decision I was fervently hoping to avoid. The best tools we have to turn this around is for more people to get vaccinated and to wear masks indoors and in outdoor crowded public places. Please choose to get vaccinated as soon as possible — it is your very best protection against being hospitalized from COVID-19.”

The declaration includes Panhandle Health District and North Central Health District, which includes hospitals such as:

— Benewah Community Hospital

— Bonner General Hospital

— Boundary Community Hospital

— Kootenai Health

— Shoshone Medical Center

— Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics

— Gritman Medical Center

— St. Joseph Regional Medical Center

— St. Mary’s Hospitals & Clinics

— Syringa Hospital & Clinics

Officials have pleaded with the public for months to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccination puts people at less risk of contracting, getting hospitalized or dying from the virus. The vast majority of people being hospitalized for the virus are unvaccinated.

“We have reached an unprecedented and unwanted point in the history of our state. We have taken so many steps to avoid getting here, but yet again we need to ask more Idahoans to choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Gov. Brad Little. “More Idahoans need to choose to receive the vaccine so we can minimize the spread of the disease and reduce the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, many of which involve younger Idahoans and are preventable with safe and effective vaccines.”

Jeppesen activated crisis standards on Labor Day. He received a recommendation to activate them from the Crisis Standards of Care Activation Committee, according to a news release. The committee found, “the ability of northern Idaho hospitals and healthcare systems to deliver the usual standard of care has been severely affected by the staffing shortages, and all contingency measures to address these shortages had been exhausted.” The Coeur d’Alene hospital Kootenai Health requested that Crisis Standards of Care be activated.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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