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All The Hospitals In Idaho Are Rationing Care Because Of COVID-19 Surge

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Every hospital in Idaho is now allowed to ration medical care. That's because they're overwhelmed by a continuing surge of COVID patients.

Rachel Cohen of Boise State Public Radio reports on the state's move to crisis standards of care.

RACHEL COHEN, BYLINE: The request came from the state's largest health care system, St. Luke's. Officials there say they've been adding hundreds of extra hospital beds, assigning primary care physicians to patient bedsides and boarding people in emergency departments for upwards of six hours. And there's no end in sight.

CHRIS ROTH: If we continue on this course, over the next several weeks, St. Luke's Health System will become a COVID health system.

COHEN: St. Luke's CEO, Chris Roth.

ROTH: We will consume every single bed and every single resource we have with COVID patients in our hospital.

COHEN: The crisis standards of care designation allows providers to ration medical resources in an effort to save the most lives.

One of the people who sits on the state committee that determines crisis standards is Dr. Kenneth Krell. He's the director of the emergency department at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

KENNETH KRELL: I've been reluctant, and so have other clinicians, to make that recommendation. But we really are at the point where we have no choice.

COHEN: Not all hospitals in the state are at this point yet. But the guidelines are there for when they become necessary. At St. Luke's, choosing who gets care and who doesn't could come very soon.

Here's Sandee Gehrke, the health care system's chief operating officer.

SANDEE GEHRKE: We are out of actual hospital beds. So every additional overflow area that we start to open now means that our patients are being taken care of on stretchers.

COHEN: Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. Just 40% of the population is fully vaccinated.

For NPR News, I'm Rachel Cohen in Boise.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE ALBUM LEAF'S "ON YOUR WAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Cohen joined Boise State Public Radio in 2019 as a Report for America corps member. She is the station's Twin Falls-based reporter, covering the Magic Valley and the Wood River Valley.
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