Spokane VA hospital accepting Idaho civilian patients

Sam McComas, Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, spoke with producer Ruth Brown on Sept. 24, 2021.

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

The Mann-Grandstaff Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, has begun accepting civilian patients from Idaho.

Idaho has been in statewide crisis care standards since Sept. 16 and regularly struggles to find open beds for patients in need of health care. Mann-Grandstaff normally only treats veterans, but given circumstances in Idaho, has begun treating civilians, said Sam McComas, the facility’s associate director of patient care services and chief nurse executive. 

“This is the first time we’ve done it and we feel like it’s a great honor,” McComas said. 

The Boise VA Medical Center has also publicly said it would take civilian patients in need of care.

The Mann-Grandstaff VA is only about 30 miles from Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene. Kootenai Health was the first hospital in Idaho to request crisis care standards. Kootenai Health converted a classroom into patient bed space at the hospital. 

“We have seen an overall increase in demand, from both Washington, Idaho, Montana, all of these areas,” McComas said.

Mann-Grandstaff VA has also admitted some patients from the Washington state veterans home who needed a higher level of care with COVID-19. 

Some services normally provided to veterans have had to be postponed or diverted to provide more resources for COVID-19 patients.

“Something we wrestle with all the time is ‘What if that patient who’s waiting has something bad happen to them?’” McComas said. “I’m especially proud of our home telehealth team, a team of nurses who contact patients by phone, and we‘ve been especially vigilant with patients who have tested positive for COVID but were not admitted.”

The team checks on how the patient is doing, if their symptoms are worse, and makes sure they are able to get things done on their own or have support.

Kootenai County only has 42% of its population 12 and older fully vaccinated for COVID-19. On Friday, Kootenai Health had 114 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, 43 of whom are in critical care. 

On Sept. 20, Idaho had 760 COVID-19 hospitalizations, a new record high throughout the entire pandemic, according to the Department of Health and Welfare. On Thursday, only 15 staffed ICU beds were available across the entire state. 

For more information on coronavirus in Idaho and the vaccine, visit coronavirus.idaho.gov.

Idaho Reports is airing a 30-minute special on the implications of crisis standards of care and its impact on all patients at 8 p.m. Friday on Idaho Public Television.

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