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Kootenai Health converts classroom to COVID care unit in preparation for crisis standards of care

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Coeur d’Alene-based Kootenai Health has converted a classroom to a COVID-19 care unit in preparation for crisis standards of care. (Courtesy of Kootenai Health)

N. Idaho health system says it has exceeded its previous maximum number of COVID-19 patients this week

Kootenai Health has converted a classroom to a COVID-19 care unit in preparation for crisis standards of care.

Kim Anderson, communications and marketing director for Kootenai Health, told Idaho Reports the hospital has started the process of asking the state to declare crisis standards of care for their region.

“There is a series of steps that must be followed, and we have taken those steps,” Anderson said. “There are certain things the state wants to see to make sure we’ve exhausted all possible options before they declare crisis standards of care.”

Crisis standards of care is a systemic rationing of health care in extreme emergencies. Only the state has the authority to declare crisis standards of care. The state has a framework to help health care systems make difficult decisions on allocating limited resources.

Idaho came close to crisis standards during the December COVID surge, but it narrowly avoided the declaration. On Tuesday, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare director Dave Jeppesen told reporters the state is “dangerously close” to declaring crisis standards of care.

Anderson said they aren’t yet sure when the hospital will hear from IDHW.

“We are hoping that will be a timely decision,” she said.

The news comes as Kootenai Health has broken its previous record for patients admitted with COVID-19. That trajectory is continuing upward, Anderson said. The hospital has also converted other rooms to provide monoclonal antibody therapy for patients who aren’t admitted.

A representative from Kootenai Health is scheduled to join Idaho Reports this week for a half-hour special on Idaho’s hospital crisis. That special airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on Idaho Public Television.

Read the full press release from Kootenai Health below:

Aug. 25, 2021

Kootenai Health Converts Classroom into Patient Care Unit

On Aug. 25, 2021, Kootenai Health exceeded its previous maximum number of COVID-19 patients with 96 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 and 37 of those in critical care. The previous high set on Dec. 23, 2020, was 91. Based on predictive models and the rapid spread of the COVID-19 delta variant in our community, the hospital expects the surge to continue to escalate.

This week, within a 36-hour period, four COVID-19 patients at Kootenai Health passed away. Three of them were 45 or younger. Yesterday Kootenai installed a new, higher-capacity oxygen tank because the hospitalized COVID-19 patients they are seeing now have a much greater need for oxygen. They also continue to seek additional clinical staff to care for the growing surge of COVID-19 patients.

Late last week, Kootenai Health leaders made the decision to convert the hospital’s largest classroom in its Health Resource Center into a patient care unit. The intent is to use this space to care for low-acuity COVID-19 patients. Numerous teams have worked around the clock to ensure the space meets all the necessary standards for patient and staff safety and infection prevention. It can accommodate up to 22 patients.

Additionally, separate rooms in the Health Resource Center have been converted to provide monoclonal antibody therapy to COVID-19 patients who are not hospitalized.

Providing patient care in this space will mean a transition to crisis standards of care. Crisis standards of care are guidelines that help health care providers decide how to deliver the best care possible under extraordinary circumstances. These can include disasters or public health emergencies when health care systems are so overwhelmed by patients, or resources are so scarce, it is no longer possible to provide all patients the level of care they would receive under normal circumstances. The goal of crisis standards of care is to extend care to as many patients as possible and save as many lives as possible.

Only the state has the authority to issue a crisis standards of care declaration. Such a declaration can be issued for a given region or the entire state. Kootenai Health leaders are participating on the Idaho crisis standards of care taskforce and providing information on the current situation as it relates to the need to issue a crisis standards of care declaration.

Kootenai Health and its medical staff members continue to implore community leaders and citizens to add their efforts to the cause. They are asking every individual and family to do their part to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. Please get vaccinated for COVID-19, wear a mask when out in public, avoid optional large gatherings, practice social distancing and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.