Rachel Thain.JPG

St. Luke’s Boise Respiratory Therapist Rachel Thain seen recently at work.

St. Luke’s Health System officials believe it’s possible they may have to begin rationing beds in their crowded facilities as early as next month.

On "CBS This Morning" on Thursday, Dr. Jim Souza, St. Luke's chief medical officer, called it an “unimaginably bad” situation, but said the company’s models predicted it could happen in December.

He made the comment as Idaho continues to face a rising tide of COVID-19 cases. The state logged 1,500 new cases on Thursday, and 835 people in the state have died of the disease. Soaring cases this month have put pressure on hospitals’ ability to fully staff their facilities. Having enough beds for COVID-19 patients — and other patients — might become a challenge.

“If a heart attack victim comes in, and the ICU is full of COVID patients, what do you do?” CBS reporter Carter Evans asked Souza.

“We do our best,” Souza said. “If one of those COVID patients has a lower chance of survival, we make decisions about who gets the bed.”

As of Nov. 16 — the last day for which data was available on the state’s coronavirus website — 389 patients were hospitalized throughout the state with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19. As of the same date, there were 84 patients with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in ICU beds across the state.

As of Thursday, 120 ICU beds were still available.

Souza’s comments came on the same day Boise Mayor Lauren McLean announced a renewed public health order requiring face coverings. Violating the order may result in arrest or citation. Ada County has seen more than 5,000 new cases this month alone, a fifth of its total case count since March, according to the state’s website.

Dr. David Pate, former CEO and president of St. Luke’s Health System, told the Idaho Press, “We are potentially going to put hospitals past their tipping point, and that is very dangerous. … It’s not just that hospitals are running out of room for COVID patients, they’re running out of room for everybody.”