Kootenai Health is seeing an unprecedented increase in the number of COVID-19 patients, and August of 2021 is looking a lot more like December of 2020, when a major surge of COVID-19 patients strained hospital resources.
This time, however, the strain is happening faster and is more severe, with the majority of cases being due to the highly contagious delta variant statewide.
“With the trending cases climbing, we are rapidly exhausting our staffing resources,” Kootenai Health CEO Jon Ness said. “The COVID-19 hospital census is rising at a faster rate than it did last winter. If this trend continues, in just five days we will surpass our previous COVID-19 high census from December 2020.”
On Monday, Aug. 9, Kootenai Health had 68 positive inpatient COVID-19 cases, with 29 of these patients requiring critical care. Kootenai Health also has the highest COVID-19 inpatient volumes in the state, more than double that of the inpatient census of the next busiest hospital, which is St. Alphonsus in Boise, with 30 COVID-19 patients. Since the beginning of this surge, 97% of all COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization at Kootenai Health have not been vaccinated.
The latest COVID-19 surge is not the only factor in the current crisis. Kootenai Health has been running at near-maximum capacity since early spring 2021. This is due to many factors, including the growth of the community with more patients needing care, as well as patients presenting with more severe illness, possibly from delaying care earlier in the pandemic.
“We have postponed many elective procedures over the last several weeks due to hospital capacity,” Kootenai Health Chief Nursing Officer Joan Simon said. “We are now postponing all elective procedures that can wait for six to eight weeks so we can redeploy staff to care for hospitalized patients.”
Simo reported that Kootenai Health is shifting staff from other duties in clinics and outpatient areas to assist with the hospital surge. On Monday, Kootenai Health leadership reached out to resources at the state level to request help.
“We need help finding enough nursing staff to care for the increased volumes of critical care and acute care patients,” said Jeremy Evans, Chief Regional Operations Officer at Kootenai Health who also serves as incident commander for the hospital’s COVID-19 response planning.