Kootenai Health nearly at capacity as COVID admissions increase

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene is nearly at capacity and is no longer able to accept transfers from smaller regional hospitals, as COVID-19 admissions continue to rise.

According to a Wednesday press release, COVID hospitalizations and ICU admissions have roughly tripled since July 28.

“This past winter, it took a total of 58 days for the surge to climb from 28 patients to 87. This time it has taken less than half as long – only 21 days – and the numbers continue to escalate,” the press release says. The hospital says at the current rate of admissions, it expects more than 140 hospitalizations and 60 ICU admissions at the beginning of September.

On Monday, Dr. Robert Scoggins, chief of staff for Kootenai Health, said the same is true for all of the Inland Northwest’s major hospitals in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene region.

“Our experience is at this point all three hospitals are unable to accept transfers on a regular basis,” Scoggins told Idaho Reports.

That affects not just COVID-positive patients, but patients seeking care for heart attacks, accidents, and everyday illnesses that send Idahoans to the hospital.

The Delta variant is also affecting younger patients more severely than the original virus, Scoggins said. According to Kootenai Health, patients ages 18 to 60 account for about half of current COVID-19 hospitalizations, compared to 20 percent during the winter surge.

“They come in sicker, they progress more rapidly to requiring higher levels of oxygen and requiring mechanical ventilation sooner, and they’re younger too,” Scoggins said.

Kootenai Health’s announcement comes a day after Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials warned that hospitals around the state are approaching crisis standards of care, or rationing healthcare based on a framework laid out by the state. The crisis standards of care advisory committee is scheduled to meet later this week.

Both IDHW officials and hospital representatives from around the state are pleading with Idahoans to get vaccinated to ease the strain on healthcare facilities. Unvaccinated Idahoans are hospitalized for COVID-19 at a rate 13 times higher than those who are vaccinated, according to IDHW.

Read the full press release from Kootenai Health below.

Kootenai Health Nears Capacity with COVID-19 Surge

On July 28, Kootenai Health had 29 COVID-19 patients with 11 of those patients requiring critical care. On Aug. 4, those numbers were 43 and 19. On Aug. 11, they were 73 and 29, and on Aug. 18, they were 85 and 36.

It is not our intent to frighten, but rather to inform our community of what lies ahead if the current trajectory continues. This past winter, it took a total of 58 days for the surge to climb from 28 patients to 87. This time it has taken less than half as long – only 21 days – and the numbers continue to escalate.

Data from our own community supports the fact that the COVID-19 delta variant is replicating and spreading much faster than the original COVID-19 alpha variant. At the hospital, we are seeing that the delta variant is also leading to more severe illness in a younger population, many of which have few if any risk factors for hospitalization.  Patients age 18-60 now represent approximately 50% of those hospitalized for COVID, compared to 20% during the winter surge.

At this time, Kootenai Health has canceled elective surgeries and no longer has the capacity to receive patient transfers from other regional hospitals. Hospital leaders and physicians are critically concerned they will not have the space, equipment and staffing to provide care for everyone in our community who needs hospital care. This includes COVID-19 patients and patients who require care for other concerns such as heart attacks and injuries from car accidents.

Kootenai Health and its medical staff have explored every possible option to ensure care is available for everyone who needs it. We are now imploring our community to add their efforts to ours. We are asking every individual and family to do their part to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. Please get vaccinated for COVID-19, wear a mask when out in public, avoid optional large gatherings, practice social distancing and wash or sanitize your hands frequently.

Idahoans have always valued freedom and independence. We also recognize the value of working together as a community to take care of our own. Never were those qualities needed more than now. If we want continued access to health care and businesses, and for schools to remain open, every one of us must individually do our part to collectively defeat COVID-19.  

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