It’s ridiculous. If you have your health care system melting down, the idea that you would not immediately issue a mask mandate is just bizarre. They need to be doing everything they can possibly do. — Cassie Sauer, the president of the Washington State Hospital Association
It’s ridiculous. If you have your health care system melting down, the idea that you would not immediately issue a mask mandate is just bizarre. They need to be doing everything they can possibly do. — Cassie Sauer, the president of the Washington State Hospital Association
‘Their Crisis’ Is ‘Our Problem’: Washington Grapples With Idaho Covid Cases
Surgeries to remove brain tumors have been postponed. Patients are backed up in the emergency room. Nurses are working brutal shifts. But at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Wash., the calls keep coming: Can Idaho send another patient across the border?

Washington State is reeling under its own surge of coronavirus cases. But in neighboring Idaho, 20 miles down Interstate 90 from Spokane, unchecked virus transmission has already pushed hospitals beyond their breaking point.

“As they’ve seen increasing Covid volumes, we’ve seen increasing calls for help from all over northern Idaho,” Dr. Daniel Getz, chief medical officer for Providence Sacred Heart, said in an interview. As he spoke, a medical helicopter descended with a new delivery.

At a time when Washington State hospitals are delaying procedures and struggling with their own high caseloads, some leaders in the state see Idaho’s outsourcing of Covid patients as a troubling example of how the failure to aggressively confront the virus in one state can deepen a crisis in another.

On the Washington side of the border, residents must wear masks when gathering indoors, students who are exposed to Covid face quarantine requirements, and many workers are under vaccination orders. On the Idaho side, none of those precautions are in place.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Cassie Sauer, the president of the Washington State Hospital Association. “If you have your health care system melting down, the idea that you would not immediately issue a mask mandate is just bizarre. They need to be doing everything they can possibly do.”

... “We certainly need our friends in Idaho government to do more to preserve their citizens’ health, because we know that their crisis is becoming our problem,” Washington’s Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, said last week. “I’m asking the people of Idaho to adopt some of the safety measures — like masking requirements — like we have in Washington so we can help both of our states reduce this horrible pandemic.”


In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little’s office said he was not available for an interview, but he has indicated in recent weeks that he has no plans to restore virus restrictions, even if hospitals entered dangerous territory, saying that he wanted residents “to choose to do the right thing and get vaccinated.” He issued a statement on Friday saying he was exploring legal action to halt a mandate from President Biden that will require millions of people to get vaccinated.

... The governor has urged personal responsibility, and in northern Idaho, where schools are not requiring masks or doing contact tracing, health care leaders have grown exasperated at statements from members of the community suggesting that they do not believe the situation is as dire as doctors and hospital administrators portray it.

“That’s extremely disappointing,” Dr. Robert Scoggins, medical director of the intensive care unit at Kootenai Health, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “In north Idaho, we don’t have a lot of mitigation going on. In taking care of these patients in the I.C.U. that are very sick, they regret that they didn’t take this very seriously.”

Last week, a U.S. Army medical team deployed to support health care workers at the hospital.

... Medical staff members have struggled to keep up in both states. Some are quitting, unable to endure more of a pandemic that has already consumed them for 18 months. Some are demoralized by what they see as the public’s failure to take the virus seriously. Nurses are regularly working 16-hour shifts.

Mary Jo Moore, a director of critical care at Providence Sacred Heart, said health care workers frequently deal with anger from people who are asked to wear masks or told they cannot have visitors. Some patients come in refusing to believe they are infected with the virus, and some push for unapproved forms of treatment.

“There’s a lot of verbal abuse that the staff are taking right now,” Ms. Moore said, as she walked through Covid units, where nurses were caring for patients who had been placed on their stomachs in an attempt to help them breathe.

“And I have staff like this that are as pleasant as can be,” she said. “And they are coming back to work every day and providing care for these patients.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/13/us/coronavirus-hospitals-washington-idaho.html