Officials said that the hospital with the most severe consequences was already in operation.
Dr. Robert Scoggins is the chief of staff at Kootenai Health. It is the largest hospital system in northern Minnesota and is located in Coeur d'Alene.
Scoggins stated that the hospital had to transfer patients to a conference centre, "doing something that was not normal -- way out of normal -- at times."
Officials in the state's public health department warn that the rest is on the brink of health care rationing. Idaho has one the lowest vaccination rates in America, according to newly confimed coronavirus infections cases.
"For the rest of Idaho, we remain dangerously near to crisis standards of healthcare," Dave Jeppesen, Director of Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, warned Tuesday.
Some patients at Kootenai Health are being treated in renovated lobbies or hallways. Scoggins stated that urgent surgeries are put on hold, and that critical care patients often have to wait for long periods of waiting before they can be admitted to the ICU.
Scoggins stated that almost every day, patients are experiencing cardiac arrest when their oxygen levels drop too low and they can't provide enough oxygen.
A whole floor of the hospital has been transformed into a COVID-19 Ward. This means that medical staff must wear full protective gear before entering the floor. The hospital's conference centre has also been made into a field hospital.
One classroom in a hospital conference center is where COVID-19 patients are receiving oxygen. They are being separated by temporary partitions and placed in separate beds. Monoclonal antibody treatment is being given to coronavirus patients in another classroom. This is done in an effort to prevent their symptoms from getting worse.
Although many of the smaller hospitals in rural areas have not had to ration their health care yet, they often have no place to send critically ill patients to Kootenai Health.
Jeppesen stated that although hospitals in Washington would be able to help with overflow, they are full.
Peter Mundt, Gritman Medical Center's spokesperson in Moscow, Idaho said that the hospital is having difficulty finding hospitals to transport patients with serious heart conditions and other conditions not related to COVID-19.
Mundt stated that "our ability to accommodate non COVID patients is very limited at this time." "Even though our hospitals are all different, we work together as colleagues and peers. It must work as one system, and it is currently under extreme strain.
Spokeswoman Sam Skinner stated Tuesday night that St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston is also operating "atthe very edge of its capacity."
Skinner stated that "our current situation is worse than ever," "We continue to see the COVID-19 rise in our community. The impact on one hospital could quickly have this rippling affect. Our community's low vaccination rates place an immense burden on it."
Monday evening, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare placed northern and central Idaho in the crisis designation. This gives hospitals a legal and ethical framework to follow while they ration care.
This designation will continue in force until sufficient resources are available, including staffing and equipment, or a decrease in patients to ensure that all patients receive normal treatment.
The guidelines give priority scores to patients based on several factors that affect their chances of surviving a crisis.
Priority lists are created for those most in dire need of ICU beds and other scarce resources.
Others who are in desperate need and have lower survival chances will be provided "comfort care" to keep them comfortable, no matter what happens to their illness or recovery.
Patients with life-threatening but not serious medical conditions may experience delays in getting care until they are able to access the resources.
Jeppesen stressed Tuesday the importance of vaccines in reducing hospital demand. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that complete vaccination with all available coronavirus vaccines significantly reduces the likelihood of needing hospitalization for a coronavirus-related infection.
Officials from the state health department have asked that people not visit emergency rooms for coronavirus testing or any other matter that cannot be treated in a doctor's office. However, they said that it is important to avoid going to an emergency room for serious conditions. They advised people to be ready to wait to receive care.
Idaho's hospitals are having difficulty filling vacant nursing, housekeeping, and other healthcare positions. This is partly due to some staffers leaving because of the strain of pandemic or because others were quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19.
Little mobilized 150 Idaho National Guard soldiers and 220 federally-employed medical personnel to assist hospitals in the surge.