Kern: “Appalling” that rationing care is possibility

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

During Monday’s press conference at which Gov. Brad Little announced Idaho will roll back to Stage 3, Dr. Joshua Kern of St. Luke’s Magic Valley mentioned the possibility of rationing care if already overburdened hospitals continue to see an influx of patients.

Is Idaho there yet? No. But it’s not off the table. And during a Tuesday joint media call with other hospital officials, Kern said their COVID-19 unit was at 97 percent capacity, while the rest of the hospital was at 92 percent.

For last week’s Idaho Reports, I spoke to Kern, who discussed how the hospital has detailed contingency plans that include requesting traveling nurses and other options.

Rationing care is part of the worst-case scenario, but there are other options before we get there, Kern said.

“I think we’re still pretty far off from that endgame. There’s still levers we can pull, adjusting nursing ratios, which, again, does lead to the possibility of having bad outcomes just because we don’t have enough staff to care for the patients at the level we would normally want to,” Kern said. “But again, I think we’d probably push pretty hard on that before we’d say no, we just can’t even treat you. We’re just going to let you die in the hallway or something.” 

Kern said it’s “appalling” that it’s a possibility, however. 

“We’ve never in America really honestly faced a situation where we’ve had to do that systematically, where we’ve had to say, ‘No we can’t treat you. You’re too old, you’re too sick,'” he said.

You can watch my full interview with Kern here.

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