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Health Care Officials Warn State Is Close To Implementing Crisis Standards Of Care Protocol

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Nearly 40% of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized are in an intensive care unit.

More than 75% of the state’s ICU beds are currently occupied. However, hospital officials have reiterated multiple times that even if there’s a bed available, that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be staff to care for the patient.

Officials at the University of Utah Hospital said they are pulling resources from other teams to help with COVID-19 patients – but also for regular patients.

The university hospital has canceled all its surgeries that require hospital stays due to the high number of COVID-19 patients being treated.

Health care facilities will soon have to begin implementing the state’s Crisis Standards of Care Protocol, a guideline released in August that outlines what hospitals will need to do in the event that resources are stretched thin.

This will include prioritizing who gets care.

According to the plan, the young will get priority over the old because they are more likely to survive COVID-19.

“Because younger persons generally have better short-term mortality outcomes than older persons with the same clinical condition, when after individualized assessments of short-term mortality risk, not all patients with similar MSOFAs can be given ICU/ventilator care, relative youth may be used as a tiebreaker,” according to the protocol.

It’s a step the U of U administration has proposed if their ICUs are overcrowded and health care workers have to decide which patients will receive care.

Authorities are anticipating having to activate the protocol in the coming weeks if infection rates continue to grow at their current rate. Both the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City and the Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George have exceeded their ICU spaces.

Both hospitals are currently using surge capacity plans, which convert other rooms to serve for critical care.

“We have more beds than we have skilled medical teams in our hospitals,” said Greg Bell, president of the Uah Hospital Association. “How can we take those teams and put them in another facility? It doesn’t make sense.”

Bell added that the statistics of the state’s current 75% ICU occupancy can give a false sense of security because hospitals cannot fully staff the ICUs to 100%.

The state has long planned to open a field hospital at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy if necessary, but, as Bell emphasized, just because there’s a bed does not mean there is medical staff.

Nurses and doctors are working 50 hours a week, and they say they’re exhausted and anxious about what’s ahead. They are asking public to do their part so that the protocol doesn’t have to be implemented.

Health care workers said they’re hoping the situation is a wakeup call for residents. They’re pleading with the community practice good hand hygiene, wear masks, and avoid large gatherings — including any Halloween parties.

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