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Today in Idaho hospitals and COVID-19: Patients, ER visits and capacity

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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)

Get daily updates on Idaho hospital capacity, pediatric and adult COVID-19 hospitalizations

One of Idaho’s largest hospitals said Wednesday that it has begun the process of seeking approval to move into “crisis standards of care.”

That would allow hospitals in some or all regions of Idaho to triage patients based on health condition and likelihood of survival. Beds and nursing care, medications, equipment and/or other resources could be rationed. “Crisis standards” could be implemented for just a short time, or longer periods of days or weeks. Idaho has never reached a point of medical emergency that called for “crisis standards,” narrowly avoiding them last fall and winter.

But Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene has reached a critical point where it may need to resort to such measures, Idaho Reports first reported this week. The hospital has too many patients. It doesn’t have enough places to put them and staff to care for them. It struggles to find regional hospitals to send them to, when it runs out of beds.

Kootenai Health usually would send patients to nearby Spokane. Lately, it has been forced to send patients to Boise and even Portland, said Kim Anderson, communications and marketing director.

“With the pandemic, health care organizations are really all in a similar situation to us,” she said in an interview with the Idaho Capital Sun.

The hospital also struggles on the receiving end. It has been forced to decline patient transfer requests from other hospitals in the region for “some time now,” Anderson said. That means small community hospitals, which aren’t equipped to treat patients with severe traumas or illnesses, must search elsewhere for an open bed, instead of sending patients to Kootenai Health as they usually would.

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.