Gem State Roundup

Boise-area hospitals are getting full again. Saint Al’s urges vaccination.

By: - July 20, 2021 10:34 am
A patient wears a pulse oximeter on their finger

Hospitals in Southern Idaho are working to manage interruptions in the usual flow of patients through the hospital. (Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay)

Hospitals in the Boise area are once again starting to hit capacity. It’s not just because of COVID-19 patients. But the more infectious delta variant now spreading through Idaho isn’t helping, a local hospital administrator said.

State data show a rise in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

The number of patients statewide with the coronavirus had been on a steady decline since March, when thousands of people were receiving the COVID-19 vaccine each day. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 fell to lows in the 70s during the first week of July, but rose by last week to counts in the 120s.

The highly infectious delta variant has been detected this month in three of Idaho’s most populous counties.

“Just like hospitals in the Treasure Valley and throughout the region, Saint Alphonsus is experiencing increased patient volumes, including in our emergency department,” Dr. Steven Nemerson, chief clinical officer at Saint Alphonsus Health System, said Monday in a statement issued to the media.

Several factors are causing the crunch, according to Nemerson:

  • “We are in the middle of peak trauma season,” he noted. Car crashes and traumatic injuries tend to rise in the summer, as people travel and get in crashes, or hurt themselves while recreating.
  • There are a lot of patients who’ve been admitted to the hospital, which means patients coming into the emergency room who need to be hospitalized are having to wait for beds to open.
  • The region’s long-term care and nursing facilities don’t have enough room for more patients. That means hospitalized patients who normally would be discharged to a care facility are staying in the hospital as they wait. Long-term care and nursing facilities have been struggling since the start of the pandemic with staffing shortages; while physical beds and rooms may be available, the facilities can’t offer them to patients if they don’t have enough nursing staff to provide care. That, too, is the case with hospitals.

“Patient care and safety are our highest priority,” Nemerson said. “Patients who are waiting to be admitted … are receiving medical attention, including screenings, X-rays, CAT scans, and blood work.”

Nemerson said there doesn’t seem to be a surge of COVID-19 patients in the emergency department, but they’ve seen a “slight increase” of patients being admitted for inpatient hospital care due to COVID-19 infections.

“This is consistent with increasing COVID prevalence in our communities, due in part to the Delta (variant) and unvaccinated patients,” he said. “We continue to recommend people get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families.”

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Dutton hails from Twin Falls. She attended college at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, radio journalism, data visualization and much more. Her resume also includes fellowships from the Association of Health Care Journalists, Idaho Press Club, Idaho Media Initiative and Investigative Reporters and Editors. Dutton also teaches an upper-division journalism course at Boise State University. She resides in Boise with her husband, young daughter and two cats.