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EIRMC planning for worst-case scenario should coronavirus surge in eastern Idaho


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EIRMC CEO Jeff Sollis and Chief Nursing Officer Tami Frost address the media Thursday afternoon. | Nate Eaton,

IDAHO FALLS – Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center is planning and preparing for the worst-case scenario should there be a sweeping number of COVID-19 patients who need to be admitted to the hospital.

In a news conference Thursday afternoon, CEO Jeff Sollis said EIRMC set up an incident command center weeks ago, put visitor restrictions in place and has not faced any staffing or supply shortages.

“We understand supplies are not an unlimited resource so we are making sure we use them judicially,” Sollis said. “So far we have had enough personal protective equipment for our staff – gloves, gowns, masks – and we need to make sure that we preserve these front line health care workers if we face a crisis here.”

As of Thursday, 38 patients at EIRMC tested negative for coronavirus and zero tested positive. Testing is being prioritized for people who have been admitted to the hospital and have symptoms matching CDC guidelines. Long-term care patients, health care professionals and first responders are also on the priority list.

EIRMC has 330 beds with 74 dedicated to behavioral health. | Nate Eaton,

Tests are done at EIRMC and sent to a state laboratory. Results are usually back within 24 hours. If someone shows up to the emergency room with coronavirus symptoms, they are treated and if they do not need to be admitted to the hospital, they are sent home with instructions to self-isolate.

“There is a national shortage of testing supplies so we are having to prioritize based on the criticality of patients,” Sollis said. “The reality is the treatment is the same. That’s why it’s important to follow the governor’s isolation order.”

Gov. Brad Little issued a statewide stay-home order Wednesday mandated that all non-essential businesses close and all Idahoans remain home. Medical and other facilities are exempt from the order.

EIRMC has 330 beds with 74 dedicated to behavioral health. The hospital has identified staff and locations to expand its ICU if there is a sudden surge in coronavirus patients. Workers would be pulled from other areas to assist and additional precautions could be taken to prevent spreading the disease.

“We could go to no visitors with exceptions of one visitor for expectant mothers, end-of-life patients or NICU patients,” said EIRMC’s Chief Nursing Officer Tami Frost, adding that the hospital currently has around 60 ventilators and could transform other equipment to make more.

Unlike other parts of the country, EIRMC has not seen an increase in emergency room or mental health patients. Administrators credit the public for staying home, isolating and practicing social distancing.

The hospital continually monitors conditions and if there was a sudden outbreak, EIRMC could call on College of Eastern Idaho nursing students for help and even use CEI buildings to treat patients. Administrators hope it doesn’t get to that point and encourage all eastern Idahoans to become educated on COVID-19.

“It’s a new virus that we are learning more and more about every single day,” Sollis says. “Nobody had a complete understanding of what this means and what the impact will be on the world so it would be imprudent not to take this seriously.”