Idaho to start rationing care as hospitals face 'extraordinary influx' of COVID-19 cases

Hospital COVID Healthcare workers during an intubation procedure to a COVID patient
Hospitals are so strained in Idaho due to an influx of COVID-19 cases that the state is forced to ration care. (Getty/Tempura)

Idaho, the latest locality to face challenges providing non-virus care, has started to ration hospital care as facilities are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases and face dwindling resources.

Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare announced Thursday the statewide expansion of its new crisis standards of care that were originally applied to the state’s northern hospitals.

“When crisis standards of care are in effect, people who may need medical care may get care that is different from what they expect,” the state said in a release Thursday.

A patient who needs a hospital bed may find them unavailable or moved to another hospital in or out of state. They could also not be prioritized to get limited resources, the state added.

“In other words, someone who is otherwise healthy and would recover more rapidly may get treated or have access to a ventilator before someone who is not likely to recover,” Idaho said.

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Idaho came to this decision after a meeting of statewide officials that determined the state’s hospitals have been “severely affected by the extraordinary influx of patients, and all contingency measures have been exhausted,” the release said.

The decision to ration care comes as hospitals across the country have been forced to once again suspend elective and non-life-threatening procedures to preserve capacity.

Intermountain Healthcare announced Sept. 10 it will suspend any “urgent but not life-threatening” surgeries in 13 hospitals.

“This postponement starts Sept. 15 and will last for several weeks,” the Utah-based system said in a statement. “We will evaluate the situation on an ongoing basis. When feasible, consolidation of remaining surgeries or procedures may take place to help free up surgical teams to be redeployed in our hospitals.”

Intermountain said the pause is “a necessary step given the sharp spike in hospitalizations for patients with COVID-19.”