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Area hospitals issue plea to public: Take COVID-19 seriously


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IDAHO FALLS — Several local hospitals are coming together with a plea for community members to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously.

The hospitals are experiencing the highest number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations since the pandemic started and that’s resulted in a strain in resources, according to a joint news release from Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, Portneuf Medical Center, Madison Memorial Hospital, Idaho Falls Community Hospital, Mountain View Hospital, Steele Memorial Medical Center, Teton Valley Hospital, Lost Rivers Medical Center, Bear Lake Memorial Hospital, Caribou Memorial Hospital, Franklin County Medical Center, Nell J. Redfield Memorial Hospital, Power County Hospital District and Intermountain Cassia Regional Medical Center.

EIRMC Chief Medical Officer Tim Ballard told that despite the fact that every hospital in the region has a certain number of beds, they’re not always staffed to completely fill every bed.

“Our most important asset in all of our hospitals are our employees … so we think it’s absolutely important that the region consider that when we are at a crisis,” he said. “Most of our beds are full across the region.”

A major part of the statewide initiative to “flatten the curve” is to not overwhelm the healthcare system. Because hospitals are seeing a significant increase in the curve, they believe it’s time to embrace this concept.

“We are asking our communities to practice the personal responsibility behaviors that science has indicated will reduce the spread of COVID-19, as well as other infectious illnesses such as influenza,” the news release states. “The choices our residents make have a direct impact on whether we have the human resources necessary to care for our community.”

Casey Jackman, the Chief Operations Officer for Idaho Falls Community Hospital, said their facility has seen an increase in patients over the past few weeks. They had planned on it with COVID-19, school being back in session and cold weather pushing people indoors.

“Unfortunately, I don’t see a change in that coming up anytime soon,” he said. “We’re watching the outpatient testing numbers and the amount of positives that are coming back leads me to think that this is going to continue for the next little while.”

Jackman explained while the government is collecting data on how many empty beds hospitals have, it doesn’t give the full picture.

“The problem that we have, and actually every hospital that participated in that joint press release, is none of us have enough nursing staff, or respiratory therapy staff, or any of the other important specialties, to be able to take care of a completely full hospital,” Jackman explained.

Madison Memorial Hospital Spokesman Doug McBride said their facility has been fortunate with not having high amounts of COVID hospitalizations, but the hospital is still feeling effects from the virus. Madison is performing a “very high volume” of COVID-19 tests, which has resulted in staff being pulled from different departments to help get tests processed and sent to the lab as quickly as possible.

“I don’t think any of us enjoy this pandemic and what’s going on, but the idea is we still have got to pull together and stay focused on helping to eliminate or slow the spread of its happening in our particular area,” McBride said.

At EIRMC, Ballard explained that the hospital has well over 30 patients with COVID and many of them are between 30 to 50 years old. The notion that some people in the region have that they don’t need to wear a mask because they’re healthy enough to get COVID-19 and recover, isn’t the reality, according to Ballard.

“It really is important that people start following CDC guidelines here, so that one, they don’t end up in the hospital and two, we maintain the capacity to take care of those who are most sick within our community,” Ballard said.

Hospitals agree that if a person is sick or experiencing any type of medical emergency, they should still seek treatment, even during COVID-19.

The CDC recommendations to reduce the risk and slow the spread of COVID-19 include:

  • Always where a mask in public and when interacting with people not in your household (you must cover your nose and mouth to be effective).
  • Avoid large gatherings, even among people you know well.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Practice physical distancing by giving people six feet of space.

For more COVID-19 news, click here.