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States begin to see healthcare rationing in face of COVID surge

COVID HOSPITAL

faboi | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 09/18/21 - updated on 09/18/21

Idaho and Alaska hospitals implementing "crisis standards of care." Some patients might be sent to palliative care.

People in some U.S. states are now facing the frightening prospect of not getting proper treatment when they come into a hospital. Officials in two states this week have been voicing concern that they are so overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases that they might have to begin treating only those who have the best chance of survival.

In Idaho, the Department of Health and Welfare announced healthcare rationing after St. Luke’s Health System, the state’s largest hospital network, asked state health leaders to allow “crisis standards of care.”

Idaho’s rate of vaccination against the coronavirus is about 40%. Only Wyoming and West Virginia have lower rates. 

National Public Radio explained that crisis care standards mean that scarce resources such as ICU beds will be allotted to the patients most likely to survive. “Other patients will be treated with less effective methods or, in dire cases, given pain relief and other palliative care,” the radio network said.

“The situation is dire – we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident,” Idaho Department of Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen said in a statement.

“Our hospitals and healthcare systems need our help. The best way to end crisis standards of care is for more people to get vaccinated. It dramatically reduces your chances of having to go to the hospital if you do get sick from COVID-19,” Jeppesen said.

NPR said that Idaho ranks 12th in the U.S. for newly confirmed COVID cases per capita, and that hospitalizations have skyrocketed. There are reports of patients being treated in field hospitals, hospital hallways or emergency room lobbies. Urgent and elective surgeries are on hold across much of the state, NPR said. A medical supplier said that demand for oxygen tanks has increased. 

On Tuesday, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage said it was operating under “crisis standards of care” and that many emergency patients had to wait for hours in their cars before being seen, the New York Times reported.

Although the state has a 60% vaccination rate, the highly contagious Delta variant has put a major strain on hospitals.

Tags:
CoronavirusCOVID-19Information about the vaccine against COVID-19
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