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Coronavirus Coverage

Idaho hospitals reach critical point in COVID-19 care, ask for community support

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - Hospitals throughout the region are currently experiencing COVID-19 hospitalization rates exceeding those of the peak surge in December 2020.

While facilities remain open and are capable of caring for patients in need, the current COVID-19 crisis puts a significant strain on hospital resources, including staff and bed availability.

This increase has caused local ICU and inpatient hospital floors to reach capacity on a regular basis. Our hospitals have experienced a continual flow of patients, and to manage resources, hospital leaders at each facility monitor staffing and bed availability continuously throughout the day. Additionally, they collectively assess resources across hospitals to help meet the needs of the region.

Coleen Niemann, the public information officer for EIRMC said they hope people realize what' going on.

"The hospitals that signed the statement of support are really imploring people to recognize what's happening in our own backyard," Niemann said. "We're reading about it nationally. It is also happening in southeast Idaho."

In late spring, hospitals in the region had single-digit COVID-19 admissions, and hospitals were hopeful that the pandemic was ending. Unfortunately, this is not the case.  

Four of the largest hospitals in the region (EIRMC, Portneuf Medical Center, Idaho Falls Community Hospital, and Madison Memorial Hospital) collectively admitted a total of 74 inpatients with COVID-19 illness in the month of July. That number soared to 157 in the month of August, representing a 112% increase.

Niemann also said that in addition to COVID patients, the ICUs are dealing with other things, such as staffing issues, it being trauma season, and a high rate of RSV infections in the area.

"EIRMC is operating at capacity. As are other hospitals in our region." Niemann said. "What we do know is our community can help us with the covid surge. ANd hospitals are in agreement, both here locally and across the nation, that the number one way to end this pandemic is to get vaccinated."

Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 illness are overwhelmingly unvaccinated. Hospitals in our region are experiencing similar COVID-19 trends to those reported in other states and around the nation. Hospitals are also seeing younger and generally healthier people needing hospital care after contracting the virus and strongly encourage people in our area to get the vaccine and follow the CDC’s recommendations for preventing the spread of the virus, including guidance around mask usage, social distancing and frequent hand washing.

The vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective, with 370 million doses administered across the U.S., as of September 1, 2021. As of this date, nearly 740,000 Idahoans are fully vaccinated. This leaves roughly 60% of Gem State residents unprotected.

The Food & Drug Administration has granted full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine is also available for those as young as 12 under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines also remain in widespread use under EUA while seeking full approval. 

The choices Idahoans make have a direct impact on whether hospitals have the human resources necessary to care for our community. Hospitals are imploring our community to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Protect yourself, protect our children, and protect the vulnerable members of our community unable to receive the vaccine. Do your part to make sure we can protect our precious hospital resources and care for those who need us most. 

These hospitals in south and southeastern Idaho stand united in this joint statement:

  • Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center
  • Portneuf Medical Center
  • Madison Memorial Hospital
  • Idaho Falls Community Hospital
  • Mountain View Hospital
  • Bingham Memorial Hospital
  • Steele Memorial Medical Center
  • Teton Valley Hospital
  • Bear Lake Memorial Hospital
  • Minidoka Memorial Hospital
  • Franklin County Medical Center
  • Nell J. Redfield Memorial Hospital
  • Power County Hospital District
  • Intermountain Cassia Regional Hospital
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Rachel Fabbi

Rachel Fabbi is a reporter, anchor and producer for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.


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