Unlike many hospitals across Idaho’s strained healthcare systems, St. Luke’s Wood River is not at full capacity, but some patients may experience delays in care, and those in need of a specialist treatment or an intensive care bed may have to wait to be moved to a larger facility, a senior doctor at the local medical center said Thursday.
Dr Terry Ahern, medical director of the emergency department at St. Luke’s Wood River, said the hospital south of Ketchum made some adjustments after the state activated its standards of care plan in the event of a crisis. last week. The hospital treats more patients than it normally does, he said, and while people ultimately get the care they need, it may not be at the same level or at the same schedule that St. Luke’s typically provides.
“These are not operations as usual,” Ahern said.
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare activated statewide crisis standards following a request from the St. Luke Health System, the largest health care provider in Idaho. In a crisis, this allows providers to use substandard standards, allowing them to indefinitely delay care for some people, provide reduced care for others, and treat people in unconventional settings.
The “crisis” has resulted in record numbers of patients pushing health systems to capacity and straining resources. In other St. Luke hospitals in Twin Falls and the greater Boise area, hospital beds and intensive care units were full, resulting in the development of unconventional overflow areas with beds. baby.
The numbers were driven by high volumes of traditional patients and patients with COVID-19. St. Luke’s larger health system, which has about 600 beds, was treating 314 patients with COVID-19 on Thursday. A few days earlier, the number was 280.
In St. Luke’s Wood River, the number of patients is also on the rise, Ahern said. The hospital has 25 beds, six of which are dedicated to the birthing unit. As of Thursday, the hospital had 15 inpatients, four of whom were being treated for COVID-19. The number of hospital patients recently eclipsed 20, significantly above average, Ahern said.
The hospital treats local COVID-19 patients – about 90% of whom are unvaccinated – and takes a small number of non-COVID transfers from St. Luke’s Hospital in Twin Falls, Ahern told The Express. In addition, the emergency department is busier, he said, with daily numbers of patients ranging from their teens to their mid-thirties.
The net effect is that the additional workload locally, combined with other St. Luke’s system locations operating at or above capacity, has resulted in some changes in accordance with crisis standards. Staff work overtime. The nurse ratio was changed, with nurses helping four to five patients instead of two to three.
“We were able to press our staff to accommodate more patients,” said Ahern.
In St. Luke’s system, elective surgeries, ranging from orthopedic operations to the removal of cancerous tumors, have been postponed. And, with the system “under tremendous pressure,” emergency surgeries could be delayed slightly, Ahern said.
“The system does not scale as quickly and efficiently as it normally does,” he said.
In Blaine County, residents might think the situation is of little or no concern, Ahern said, but the crisis is having far-reaching impacts. St. Luke’s Wood River does not have an intensive care unit. If a person is in a serious car accident or has a heart attack and needs an intensive care bed, they will normally be transferred quickly. However, if the Twin Falls intensive care unit is full, the patient may need to stay in Wood River temporarily and be treated there, Ahern said. A heart attack victim would normally be transferred to Twin Falls within 90 minutes to two hours, Ahern said, but now that time could be longer.
Patients “get what they need,” Ahern said, and are not denied care. However, standards of care have changed and could be further reduced if projections of COVID-19 cases are correct. The number of cases is expected to be high until October, putting a strain on health systems.
“The projected trend is that this will continue at this rate over the next two weeks,” Ahern said.
The state recorded 1,354 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported. By comparison, that number was less than 50 just before the July 4th holiday. As of Thursday, the state had recorded 246,749 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
On September 20, the most recent day-long hospitalizations were reported, the state set a record for the number of COVID-related hospitalizations, with 760 COVID-19 patients treated at 45 hospitals and clinics in Idaho . Record numbers were set throughout the month.
People should be in the emergency room soon enough if they need immediate care, Ahern said, but there are things that can be done to help limit the additional strain on hospitals. He encouraged people to take precautions when driving and playing, get the flu shot, and take recommended actions to limit the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds, and taking the recommended steps to limit the spread of COVID-19. get vaccinated against the virus.
“Just try to be as sure as possible,” he said.
Additionally, Ahern and Joy Prudek, public relations manager for St. Luke’s Wood River, have encouraged residents of Blaine County to try and play down the divisions that have come with the pandemic. Anyone frustrated with disinformation about the pandemic should target their frustration at the sources of that disinformation, not the people who are absorbing it, Ahern said. People can also limit assumptions about others based on their stance on wearing masks or getting vaccinated, Prudek said.
“I think we have to stay together as a community,” Ahern said.