Idaho – CNN
“It’s terrible. I don’t know if people understand the gravity of the situation,” Cassie Sauer, executive director of the Washington State Hospital Association, told CNN Thursday night. “It’s not something that should be happening in America at this point.”
Sauer says Washington hospitals are seeing more and more requests to take patients from overwhelmed Idaho facilities. In some cases, sick Idahoans simply drive across the border for treatment.
“I am shocked that this does not cause serious alarm in Idaho,” Sauer said. “In normal times our hospitals would accept almost all transfer requests. They accept some, but they are declining more now.”
Although hospitals as far west as Seattle have received transfer requests, according to Sauer, most are coming to Spokane. This town is just across the border from Coeur d’Alene, the largest city in narrow northern Idaho.
“While we were able to accept some of these patients, we also had to refuse more than half,” said Marce Edwards Olson of MultiCare, which operates Deaconess Hospital in Spokane. “All of our hospitals are very busy caring for Covid patients and we have been near full capacity for some time. “
As part of the crisis care standards statement announced Thursday, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said, “The massive influx of Covid-19 patients has depleted the supply of staff, available beds and resources needed to adequately meet the growing demand for health services. “
The declaration is a “last resort,” Idaho Department of Health Director Dave Jeppesen said earlier this month. This prompted Idaho Gov. Brad Little to advocate for eligible Idahoans to get vaccinated.
“We have reached an unprecedented and undesirable point in the history of our state,” the governor, a Republican, said earlier this month.
We are in a situation of limited resources’
Throughout the pandemic, Covid-19 has strained the U.S. healthcare system. Hospitals continue to face difficult decisions about which patient comes first when staff are low and beds are full.
“If the intensive care unit beds are all filled with patients on ventilators due to their pneumonia, surgeries must be postponed,” Brown said. “We have situations where people can come into the hospital with a heart attack, and they have to stay in the emergency room for long periods of time waiting for a bed to open.”
In some cases, this means that a patient has died.
“It’s a sad situation that we haven’t really seen in American history for a long, long time.” Brown said. “We’re in a situation of limited resources right now, and when you have limited resources, we’re in triage situations – and some people can die from it.”
Typically, hospitals and healthcare systems report having plans to deal with patient overflow.
“All hospitals and health systems have plans in place to deal with an increase in the number of patients. These plans may include actions such as adding more beds, including in non-traditional areas of care in a hospital such as a cafeteria or parking lot, moving patients between hospitals, and working with their local health departments and countries to find other healthcare sites, ”wrote Akin Demehin, director of policy for the American Hospital Association (AHA), in an email to CNN earlier this month.
“Sometimes that includes sending patients to hospitals in neighboring states who may have the capacity to treat them,” Demehin wrote. “Another option that some hospitals have taken is to reduce or suspend so-called elective procedures which are not urgent and can be safely delayed. “
However, for the most part, hospital capacity is not limited to the number of occupied beds. Usually a hospital can add more beds. But many facilities are more concerned with having sufficient staff to care for patients, according to Demehin.
“Hospitals and health systems have entered the COVID-19 pandemic already facing a shortage of skilled caregivers, and the past 18 months have exacerbated this,” Demehin wrote, adding that the AHA called on the administration. Biden to work as a partner to develop strategies to address the health workforce shortage.
Hospitals make tough choices
Under federal law, an emergency department must accept any patient who requests care, Art Caplan, professor of bioethics at NYU Langone Health in New York City, told CNN. earlier this month.
“You have to take anyone, even if they don’t have the money, and stabilize them. It’s called EMTALA, and it’s been around for a while,” Caplan said.
Now, during the pandemic, many Covid-19 patients filling hospital beds are not being vaccinated. EMTALA bonds remain in place.
Back in Washington, Sauer is frustrated that the state’s neighbor to the east is not taking the kind of important steps Washington has to stem the tide.
“Idaho is not doing what it should. They have no [statewide] mask warrant. They have to do their part, ”Sauer said. “They can’t count on Washington as a last resort. “
CNN’s Jacqueline Howard, Holly Yan and Travis Caldwell contributed to this report.