Community Hospital COVID-19

Karin Turner, left, and Mark Ellett read a chest X-ray of a patient with COVID-19 in the intensive care unit at Idaho Falls Community Hospital on Dec. 7, 2020.

All of Idaho has now been declared under a hospital resource crisis that allows for health care to be rationed.

The move activates a plan that gives hospitals legal guidance and protection for how to provide care outside of the norm. According to the plan, scarce and potentially life-saving treatment can be rationed with a focus on saving those with the best chance of living — in hopes of saving the most lives possible.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced the declaration Thursday morning. The agency said hospital disaster planners met and recommended the declaration Wednesday, which health department Director Dave Jeppesen officially ordered Thursday.

“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," Jeppesen said in a news release.

St. Luke's Health System requested Crisis Standards of Care be activated, the state health department said.

Not all hospitals may be at the point that they need to use crisis standards to provide care, according to the state health department.

Health officials have asked people to avoid activities that could result in hospitalization. They caution that people in need of treatment should still seek care.

Officials also encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“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. In addition, please wear a mask indoors in public and outdoors when it’s crowded to help slow the spread," Jeppesen said.

With hospitals entering Crisis Standards of Care, the state's hospital crisis plan, people in Idaho can now expect longer wait lines into emergency rooms, care in makeshift rooms or being transferred to other facilities due that have room.

"Someone who is otherwise healthy and would recover more rapidly may get treated or have access to a ventilator before someone who is not likely to recover," the state health department said in a news release.

Crisis standards were first declared last week for two public health districts in north Idaho. That came after a Coeur d’Alene hospital requested the standards be activated.

The standards will remain in effect until hospitals have enough resources to provide routine care to all patients, the state health department said.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.