Faced with a severe medical staffing shortage due to a surge in the COVID-19 cases and dwindling blood supply, Idaho health officials have activated crisis standards of care guidelines for the second time in less than a year.
The Idaho Department of Public Health and Welfare enacted the crisis protocols on Monday for three public health districts in the southern part of the state reeling from a rise in coronavirus cases because of the rampant spread of the omicron variant, officials said.
"The highly contagious omicron variant has thrown us a curveball," Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Public Health and Welfare, said in a statement. "Once again, the situation in our hospitals and health systems is dire – we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat patients."
COVID cases skyrocketed in September 2021, which led the state to enact the crisis protocol.
More than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases, the majority caused by the omicron variant, were reported in the state on Monday, according to the state's coronavirus online dashboard data. The percentage of positive COVID-19 tests has doubled in the last month from 8.6% in December to 17.1% in January, according to the data.
“Please get vaccinated and boosted if you can and wear a high-quality protective mask in public places," Jeppesen said in a statement. "Omicron is so much more contagious than previous variants, and even though a lower percentage of cases are ending up in the hospital, the record number of cases is still putting strain on our health care system"
A high number of both clinical and non-clinical medical staff members have been unable to work because of being infected by the virus, health officials said.
The state department reported that on Jan. 21, one of the largest healthcare providers, Saint Alphonsus, requested crisis standards of care due to the extreme staff shortage and the low blood supply available. Despite canceling non-urgent surgical appointments, conserving blood supply, and hiring more nurses, the COVID-19 surge has stretched health care facilities like Saint Alphonsus extremely thin.
Saint Alphonsus' request also highlighted the need to implement blood conservation strategies due to the nationwide blood shortages.
To continue providing the usual standard of care to those who most need it, the crisis standard care protocols will call for things like postponement of elective surgery, etc.
The goal of activating the protocol is to provide and care for as many patients as needed, Jeppesen said in his statement.
The crisis standards of care has been activated in the southwest, central and south central health districts in Idaho. The state will monitor COVID numbers and staffing shortages in other regions and hospitals to see if the protocols need to be further expanded.