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St. Luke’s Begins the Transition to Recovery
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Saturday, November 13, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

St. Luke’s hospitals, including the Wood River hospital, are beginning to transition from crisis care to more normal operations.

 Idaho hospitals remain under crisis standards of care, but St. Luke’s hospitals are moving closer to recovery, according to Sandee Gehrke, St. Luke’s senior vice president.

But, while numbers have improved in the past week, hospital capacities continue to be high, St. Luke’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Frank Johnson told reporters at a virtual press conference Thursday.

“We are seeing our volumes come down slightly, but we are still seeing our critical care volumes at levels that we would not normally be operating in at this time of the year,” said Gehrke.

More than 5,000 surgeries for such procedures as gall bladder surgeries and hip and knee replacements and rotator cuff surgeries were postponed in late September and October when St. Luke’s hospitals needed all its workers to care for those with COVID and emergencies, said Johnson.

With staff beginning to return to traditional roles, hospital will again be able to perform those surgeries. But it could take six months to get caught up, he said.

Gehrke said at least 15 non-traditional area were opened in four main hospitals, with emergency patients being treated in cath lab recovery areas, imaging suites, discharge lounges, emergency room waiting areas and even mom-baby areas. All but two have been closed.

The hospital system is no longer having to transfer patients from one hospital to another. And it’s been able to send all but 36 of more than 300 staff that were redeployed to other units back to their home department.

Gehrke said the hospital had run out of hospital beds at one point, so it was taking care of patients on gurneys and renting additional beds. That’s no longer the case. And a decrease in patients on ventilators means hospitals are no longer having to use non-traditional ventilators

Nurse-to-patient ratios are normalizing. And so is the work of laundry workers, who were overwhelmed with the high number of people in hospitals, and environmental service workers, who were overwhelmed with the extra volume of beds and rooms they had to get ready for the surge in patients.

The hospital system continues to monitor its supply of personal protective equipment, knowing that manufacturers and supply chains have been strained, Gehrke added.

Idaho was the first state to enact crisis standards of care when it did so seven weeks ago. No other state has been as long in crisis care. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare will determine when the state can exit crisis standards of care.

As caseloads come down, hospital workers will need a little R&R, Johnson suggested: “Hospital workers have worked very hard over the last even weeks in crisis. They need a little bit of time to recover and heal themselves.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Vaccine compliance among St. Luke’s 17,000 employees is above 99 percent, Gehrke said. It’s 100 percent among hospital providers.

Gehrke estimated fewer than a hundred employees have not been vaccinated.

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