Regional hospitals nearly full capacity, may transfer patients to Seattle and Portland

Regional hospitals are in a pinnacle moment during the fight against the coronavirus, in particular, a Couer D'Alene, Idaho hospital that has reached full capacity.

Kootenai Health on Wednesday morning said in an online press release the hospital has 31 COVID-19 inpatients and 11 of them are requiring critical care.

The hospital services the Inland Northwest and is currently 99% full for patients requiring medical or surgical care. Health officials said Spokane hospitals are also full and cannot accept more patients. Of the COVID-19 tests conducted in the county, they are seeing the highest rate of positivity since the start of the pandemic.

According to an Associated Press report, Idaho is currently sixth in the nation for new cases per capita, with a positivity rate of just over 15% -- one of the highest in the nation. Per the CDC's COVID website, Idaho has had approximately 5,416 new cases in the last 7 days, compared to Washington's 4,375 or California's 21,671 cases in the last week. 

This creates an issue for regional hospitals folding under the pressures to care for and treat virus patients, many of which are now turning to Seattle and Portland hospitals for possible patient transfers, but are limited. 

“Because all regional hospitals are experiencing the same situation, there will be limited opportunities to transfer patients to other facilities once at capacity. If there is no room available Kootenai Health is currently looking at hospitals in Seattle or Portland to find space to transfer patients, but it is very limited,” health officials said in the online statement.

Another issue Kootenai is also facing is staff shortages. Due to the increase in virus cases, the hospital is struggling to find and recruit nurses, including traveling nurses from other communities.

Health officials urge the public to continue with health and safety measures as cold and flu season approaches with the start of fall season. Officials say ask people to continue to try to prevent the spread of the virus by wearing a face mask or covering, washing hands thoroughly and use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, keep family members home if they believe to be sick, avoid public areas and keep a physical distance of at least 6-feet from others, and avoid non-emergency traveling.