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Health care analysts say Utah close to 'rationing' service due to climbing COVID-19 patients record Utahns
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Health care analysts say Utah close to ‘rationing’ service due to rising COVID-19 patients

(Laura Seitz, KSL file)

SALT LAKE CITY – Health officials say Utah is getting close to taking drastic measures to treat the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the state.  Hospitals are considering an emergency plan, which some doctors describe as “rationing” health care. 

On Monday, there were 1,201 newly reported COVID-19 cases, which is significantly fewer than the record of 1,960 set last Friday.  Still, hospital administrators say they have nothing to be optimistic about, and they’re predicting the number of patients will exceed what they’re able to cover.

Last Thursday, officials with the Utah Hospital Association spoke with the Utah Department of Health and discussed the possibility of enacting their Crisis Standards of Care Plan, which means they would have to prioritize the more serious cases and decide which of their patients can stay in the ICUs. 

“This comes down to if there are not enough ventilators, ICU beds and care available for people,” says Utah Division of Emergency Management Spokesman Joe Dougherty.

He says Utah’s hospitals are not quite at this stage, yet, but the current trend of rising cases isn’t sustainable.

Dougherty says, “They said, ‘It’s possible, if we don’t get out of this trajectory, we will be asking the governor to invoke the Crisis Standards of Care Plan.’”

How soon could this happen?

Utah Hospital Association President Greg Bell says, “We have to think in the next week, or two, that we’re going to be at the maximum of even our contingency planning for ICU beds.”

The issue isn’t merely bed space.  Bell says the state has been able to stock the Mountain America Expo Center with extra beds in case the hospitals get too full.  However, Bell says they’re already dealing with a shortage of health care workers because of the pandemic, and they have enough trouble staffing their own hospitals.

“How can we take those teams and put them in another facility?  It doesn’t make sense,” Bell says.

According to Bell, we aren’t able to do anything about the people already infected that are expected to arrive at Utah’s hospitals.  He says the only way we can prevent the system from being overwhelmed is to limit the number of new cases by wearing masks and social distancing.


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