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As local hospitals fill up, the Boise VA makes a rare offer

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The Boise VA Medical Center is in downtown Boise, blocks from the Boise campus of St. Luke’s Health System. The VA hospital cares for veterans and is now offering to help care for civilians during the COVID-19 surge. (Audrey Dutton, Idaho Capital Sun)

The local veterans hospital in the Treasure Valley may start taking civilian transfers

Health care is the front line of the war against COVID-19. As the battle intensifies in Treasure Valley hospitals, the Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center has reached out to them with an unprecedented offer.

The Boise VA hospital “is working with hospitals valley-wide to take non-military veterans when we have capacity,” James Winget, executive officer to the director told the Sun in an email Monday.

Winget said its offer was a local initiative.

“There are likely other VA facilities that are doing the same thing, but it is not a VA-wide initiative at this point,” Winget said. “If we have staff and beds open and other hospitals are full, we will absolutely start accepting civilian patients.”

As the number of new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise at a pace unseen since last winter, hospitals in Idaho’s urban areas are already at a crisis turning point.

Federal data released Monday showed a worsening trend for COVID-19 hospitalizations in Idaho, which now rival and exceed Idaho’s hospitalization rates from last fall and winter.

The data showed an average of zero to one adult ICU bed available at hospitals in Boise, Caldwell, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls, Lewiston and Nampa. In addition, Magic Valley news station KMVT reported Monday that the region’s main hospital, in Twin Falls, also had no remaining ICU beds.

Not all patients who are filling up Idaho hospitals have the coronavirus disease. But COVID-19 patients, who are almost entirely unvaccinated, are now one in five of the patients in Idaho’s hospitals.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state.