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North Idaho hospital sees record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations a month into crisis standards of care

The COVID-19 positivity rate at Kootenai Health is 27 percent and continues to climb higher than hospitals in the Treasure Valley.

KOOTENAI COUNTY, Idaho — Nearly one month ago, North Idaho enacted crisis standards of care and since then, Kootenai Health in Kootenai County has seen a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

On the day crisis standards of care went into effect, Kootenai Health had 113 hospitalizations due to COVID, as of Wednesday, October 6 that number climbed to 150, the highest the hospital has seen.

"150 COVID patients is about 75 percent of our normal pre-COVID bed capacity for med surge admissions,” said Jeremy Evans, Kootenai Health's Chief Regional Operations Officer. “Today, we have got 44 critical care patients and 17 on ventilators. It continues to amaze me how our medical staff, our clinical staff and our leaders, are able to accommodate this surge."

Evans added that around 10 to 20 patients are admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 treatments each day.

"We have seen a lot of deaths, we are averaging about one a day in the COVID population, I spent the last week in the ICU and it's a very hard place to work right now it's just a constant struggle to take care of these patients on a daily basis,” said Robert Scoggins, the Medical Director of the ICU.

The COVID-19 positivity rate at Kootenai Health is 27 percent and continues to climb higher than hospitals in the Treasure Valley. The positivity rate at Saint Alphonsus in Boise is 23 percent, the St, Luke’s in Boise is reporting 18 percent positivity rate.

“It’s just incredibly difficult to be able to describe what it’s like to take care of these patients and be on the floor and just see these patients on a daily basis the volume is unbelievable, the number of patients who are on the verge of being intubated or in times dying, is extraordinary," Scoggins said.

According to Scoggins, because there is limited availability to transfer patients out of state for care as resources are limited.

"If you have a different job and you don't have the resources to do your job, it may be a construction site and you show up and a house can't be built, that's frustrating no doubt, but when you can’t care for a patient because you don't have the right resources, it’s a human at the other side,“ said Debbie Callins, the director of Clinical Services. “When you come to work every single day and you have a day off or some time off and you come back in and you think it's going to be better, it’s not."

Similar to many parts of Idaho, medical staff said that Kootenai Health is admitting more patients for COVID-19 at younger ages.

“I think we are going to see a whole population of young people with chronic lung diseases and many of them will need transplants," Scoggins said.

Kootenai healthcare workers continue to show up for their community in the battle against COVID-19, but many of them wonder if there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

“The thing that is frustrating for us, is a lot of these people don't need to be in the hospital if they were vaccinated, " Scoggins said.

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