Gritman Medical Center said it does not need to move to crisis standards of care, despite an announcement from Idaho Health and Welfare activating the measure allowing health care rationing for hospitals in the state’s 10 northernmost counties.

The move was enacted at the request of Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene on Monday in response to a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 patients in need of hospitalization. Even though the public health agency activated crisis standards for all of northern and north central Idaho, each hospital may move to these standards at its own discretion.

According to Health and Welfare, there are three levels of care hospitals can operate within. Hospitals typically operate within conventional standards of care, but when large-scale disasters like the pandemic occur, they may move to contingency standards of care or crisis standards as health care resources become more scarce. The announcement warned hospitals that are operating under crisis standards may not be capable of offering the usual level of care to people having a health-related emergency.

“The guidelines may be used when there are not enough healthcare resources to provide the usual standard of care to people who need it,” the announcement said. “The goal of crisis standards of care is to extend care to as many patients as possible and save as many lives as possible.”

Gritman moved to contingency standards of care early in the pandemic, a Tuesday news release from the hospital said, but conditions do not merit a move to crisis standards at this time. Hospital spokesman Brad Gary said there is no one factor that would trigger a move to crisis standards but public health entities, as well as health care administrators and providers, are meeting daily to assess the factors involved.

“Contingency (standards of care) really says every day, we’re monitoring everything. So we’re monitoring beds, staffing, medicine, supplies (and) equipment,” Gary said. “That includes ventilators, that includes certain kinds of prescription medicines that people in the hospital might need, that includes talking about nursing and talking about who’s out for vacation or sickness, and what beds are filled and what beds are not.”

The hospital news release said its dedicated COVID-19 unit has been at capacity several times in the past few weeks. Gary said if this unit were to overflow, patients with COVID-19 would be admitted to another part of the hospital.

The release acknowledged that the recent surge in COVID-19-related hospitalizations is straining staff and urged the public to protect themselves, their community and local hospital capacity by getting vaccinated.

“This continued increase (in hospitalizations), overwhelmingly in patients who have not been vaccinated, is affecting our capacity as well as our ability to transfer patients for other types of care including emergencies and conditions not related to COVID-19,” according to Gritman’s release. “The vast majority of our hospitalized and seriously ill COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. The vaccines are helping prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from the disease. We strongly recommend choosing to receive the vaccine to protect yourself. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, keeping social distance, and limiting gatherings with those from outside your immediate household are also proven to help slow the spread.”

Gary stressed that people should continue to seek care at Gritman if they are in need of medical attention.

“The point I want to emphasize is that we’re safe and open for care and we don’t want people to defer their care,” he said. “If you don’t feel like you’re sick, or you feel like you need help, come to the emergency room or schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. “

Jackson can be reached by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

Recommended for you