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Northern Idaho hospitals banking on Seattle and Portland to take COVID-19 patients

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | October 27, 2020
Northern Idaho hospitals may soon have to transfer COVID-19 patients to Seattle or Portland to relieve hospital capacity
Regional hospitals in Northern Idaho are near capacity and may soon be relying on their Washington state counterparts to help ease the load of COVID-19 patients they are treating.

One such hospital is Kootenai Health, which reported last week that it was at 99% capacity for patients, and is short-staffed and in need of nurses to keep up with the rising number of COVID-19 cases. Without such help, it says it will have to send patients to Seattle or Portland for treatment, according to The Associated Press.

“Because all regional hospitals are experiencing the same situation, there will be limited opportunities to transfer patients to other facilities once at capacity,” the hospital said in a statement. “If there is no room available, Kootenai Health is currently looking at hospitals in Seattle or Portland to find space to transfer patients, but it is very limited.”

The facility currently has 31 COVID-19 inpatients and 11 in critical condition. While it does not plan to turn away patients, it expects there to be long waiting times and the need to treat patients in waiting rooms and other unorthodox locations.

St. Luke’s Hospital in Twin Falls has also been exhausted by the pandemic, having to cancel all elective surgeries for the month to care for its COVID-19 patients. It reports that one in every four patients there has the virus. Meanwhile, Republican Governor Brad Little has refused to implement policies such as mandatory face masks statewide to curb transmission of the virus, despite new cases increasing statewide in the past two weeks by 46.5%, its largest spike since the pandemic first began, according to The AP.

Similar surges and impacts have also been seen in other states, with hospitals in Utah reporting that seven out of 10 intensive care beds are filled, and Montana saying the same for about six out of 10 of its own. Both states, along with Wyoming, saw record highs this weekend in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, reported The AP.

The same trend is also being seen overseas, with the Dutch Hospital System, LNAZ, saying that it expects this week to begin transferring patients to Germany due to the number of COVID-19 admissions its hospitals are experiencing. Daily cases in Netherlands have hit a record high of more than 9,000, according to Reuters.

“And we certainly have not seen the end of it”, said LNAZ association’s head Ernst Kuipers. “Hospital numbers will continue to rise at least until the end of this month.”

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