LEWISTON — St. Joseph Regional Medical Center activated crisis standards of care Thursday to deal with staffing and capacity challenges caused by the recent surge in COVID-19 patients, spokeswoman Sam Skinner confirmed.

The Lewiston hospital and all hospitals in northern Idaho were given the option to move to crisis standards Sept. 7, but St. Joe’s didn’t invoke the standards until Thursday.

“In order to maintain operations and ensure appropriate staffing levels, our hospital is now operating under ‘crisis standards,’ per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, effective immediately and until further notice,” Skinner said in a written statement to the Tribune.

St. Joe’s has been “working through a number of strategies” in recent week to mitigate staffing shortages and manage the increase in COVID-19 patients, while also providing other health care services, Skinner said.

Crisis standards are expected to help alleviate staffing shortages and increase capacity for hospitalized patients, “especially those needing more acute care,” according to Skinner’s statement.

“These steps will also provide opportunity for our staff to administer additional monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 patients, an important step in helping prevent the most at-risk patients from being hospitalized due to COVID-19,” the statement said.

St. Joe’s is treating “approximately 15 patients for COVID-19,” Skinner said Thursday.

Crisis standards of care guidelines help health care providers and systems decide how to deliver the best care possible under the extraordinary circumstances of an overwhelming disaster of public health emergency, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The guidelines may be used when there are not enough resources to provide the usual standard of care to people who need it.

All hospitals in Idaho were given the option to invoke crisis standards Thursday by the Department of Health and Welfare, as a continuing surge in COVID-19 patients strains resources around the state.

“These are extraordinary times and this pandemic is certainly taking its toll on our providers, nurses and staff,” Skinner said in her statement. “Again, we are strongly encouraging our community to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinated individuals are significantly less likely to become severely ill or require hospitalization if they do contract COVID-19.”

Baney may be contacted at mbaney@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2262. Follow him on Twitter @MattBaney_Trib.

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