IDHW reactivates crisis standards for three southern Idaho health districts

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has activated crisis standards of care for Southwest District Health, Central District Health, and South Central District Health due to a critical shortage of staff and blood.

A COVID patient receives treatment in the Saint Alphonsus intensive care unit in September 2021. Melissa Davlin/Idaho Reports

The announcement comes as Idaho is experiencing its largest daily case numbers thus far in the pandemic. IDHW has added thousands of new cases in the last week, and as of Saturday, had more than 37,000 positive cases that hadn’t yet been logged in the official tally as overwhelmed public health districts have fallen behind on verifying patients’ residences and other data.

Saint Alphonsus requested the activation late last week, according to IDHW. Other health districts may move to crisis standards if trends continue upward.

The declaration covers eighteen counties: Adams, Washington, Payette, Gem, Owyhee, Canyon, Ada, Elmore, Boise, Valley, Gooding, Lincoln, Jerome, Twin Falls, Blaine, Camas, Cassia, and Minidoka.

Though crisis standards are activated for the region, hospitals in those counties may continue to operate under contingency or normal standards of care if they are able.

Read the full press release below.

Idaho activates crisis standards of care in three health districts in southern Idaho

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) has activated Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) this morning in accordance with IDAPA 16.02.09 – Crisis Standards of Care For Healthcare Entities in three local public health districts — Southwest District Health, Central District Health, and South Central District Health – due to severe staffing and blood shortages. 

The high number of both clinical and non-clinical staff unable to work due to the impacts of COVID-19 infections coupled with a nation-wide staffing shortage limiting access to contracted traveling staff is impacting current hospital operations. It is also limiting the ability of hospitals to maintain capacity for things like intensive care beds due to inadequate staffing. Additionally, a nation-wide shortage of blood and blood products is significantly impacting healthcare systems, and most have implemented blood conservation strategies.

This action was taken after Saint Alphonsus Health System requested CSC activation. DHW Director Dave Jeppesen convened the CSC Activation Advisory Committee virtually on Jan. 21. The committee recommended that CSC be activated statewide. Director Jeppesen made the decision to activate only in southern Idaho after reviewing current hospital capacity regionally. Other regions of the state are likely to move into CSC if current COVID-19 trends continue.

“The highly contagious Omicron variant has thrown us a curve ball,” said DHW Director Jeppesen. “Once again, the situation in our hospitals and health systems is dire – we don’t have enough resources to adequately treat patients. Please get vaccinated and boosted if you can and wear a high-quality protective mask in public places. 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 healthcare system.”

The decision to activate CSC will be discussed in detail during DHW’s weekly media briefing at 2:30 p.m. MT on Tuesday. More details about the briefing will be available later today.

Although DHW has activated CSC, hospitals will implement as needed and according to their own CSC policies. However, not all hospitals will move to that standard of care. If they are managing under their current circumstances, they can continue to do so.

The process to initiate crisis standards of care began when resources were limited to the point of affecting medical care. DHW Director Jeppesen convened the Crisis Standards of Care Activation Advisory Committee on Jan. 21, 2022, to review all the measures that were taken to adequately staff hospitals and health systems. The committee determined that the ability of all Idaho hospitals and healthcare systems to deliver the usual standard of care has been severely affected by the severe staffing shortage and the nation-wide shortage of blood. The committee recommended to the director that crisis standards of care be activated statewide. Director Jeppesen issued his decision to activate in three health districts in southern Idaho on Jan. 24, 2022, under the authority vested in him through the temporary rule.

Efforts will continue with earnest to alleviate the resource constraints in the state caused by the massive increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. The crisis standards of care will remain in effect until there are sufficient resources to provide the usual standard of care to all patients.

CSC timeline

  • Jan. 24, 2022: CSC activated in Southwest District Health, Central District Health, and South Central District Health in southern Idaho.
  • Dec. 20, 2021: CSC deactivated in the Panhandle Health District.
  • Nov. 22, 2021: CSC deactivated in all but the Panhandle Health District.
  • Sept. 16, 2021: CSC expanded to the entire state.
  • Sept. 6, 2021: CSC activated in the Panhandle Health District in northern Idaho.

CSC background

Crisis standards of care are guidelines that help healthcare providers and systems decide how to deliver the best care possible under the extraordinary circumstances of an overwhelming disaster or public health emergency. The guidelines may be used when there are not enough healthcare resources to provide the usual standard of care to people who need it. The goal of crisis standards of care is to extend care to as many patients as possible and save as many lives as possible.

When crisis standards of care are in effect, people may get medical care that is different from what they expect. For example, patients admitted to the hospital may find that hospital beds are not available or are in repurposed rooms (such as a conference room) or that needed equipment or supplies are not available. They may have to wait for a bed to open, or be moved to another hospital in or out of state that has the resources they need.

Learn more about crisis standards of care and see an FAQ at https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/idaho-resources/

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov. 


<strong>Melissa Davlin</strong> | Lead Producer
Melissa Davlin | Lead Producer

Melissa Davlin is the lead producer and host of Idaho Reports. She has covered the Idaho Legislature since 2012. She also produces for Outdoor Idaho and Idaho Public Television. She has won multiple awards for her work, including a regional Emmy for her documentary on Chinese immigration in Idaho, Idaho Press Club broadcast reporter of the year for 2015 and 2019, the Idaho Press Club First Amendment Award, and the 2019 Boise State University Enhancing Public Discourse award. She lives in Boise with her husband and two children. 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: