Idaho activates ‘crisis standards of care’

Idaho health officials activate crisis standards of care for two health districts during an increase of COVID-19 cases.


National News

September 8, 2021 - 9:27 AM

Idaho Gov. Brad Little at a March 2020 news conference. Photo by (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/TNS)

BOISE, Idaho — For the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Idaho health officials announced Tuesday they have activated crisis standards of care for two health districts — an indication that patients can’t expect the same treatment they would get in normal times.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced Tuesday in a news release that the Panhandle Health District and the Idaho North Central District entered into crisis standards because of “a massive increase in patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization.”

Crisis standards of care are guidelines that hospitals and health care systems follow in order to decide how best to treat patients in a disaster or emergency. These standards are implemented when there aren’t enough health care resources to maintain typical health care standards. Idaho hospitals were close to implementing crisis standards last fall, but were able to avoid it.

In the release, Idaho Gov. Brad Little said the Gem State has “reached an unprecedented and unwanted point in the history of our state.”

“We have taken so many steps to avoid getting here, but yet again we need to ask more Idahoans to choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” Little said in the release.

IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen said in the release that the activation of crisis standards is a last resort for health care systems.

“It means we have exhausted our resources to the point that our health care systems are unable to provide the treatment and care we expect,” Jeppesen said in the release. “This is a decision I was fervently hoping to avoid.”

Several health care systems are impacted in the Tuesday move.

For the Panhandle, those systems are the Benewah Community Hospital, Bonner General Hospital, Boundary Community Hospital, Kootenai Health and Shoshone Medical Center. For North Central, the health systems impacted are Clearwater Valley Hospital and clinics, Gritman Medical Center, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital and clinics, and Syringa Hospital and clinics.

Health and Welfare said in the release that Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene requested that crisis standards be activated, causing the Crisis Standards of Care Activation Advisory Committee to meet virtually on Monday. That committee recommended that crisis standards be activated for both health districts. Each hospital will implement its own crisis standards policies as needed.

Added Little: “More Idahoans need to choose to receive the vaccine so we can minimize the spread of the disease and reduce the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, many of which involve younger Idahoans and are preventable with safe and effective vaccines.”