2nd Alaska hospital enacts crisis standards of care

Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. in Bethel has activated crisis standards of care, making it the second hospital in Alaska to take this action.

The crisis standards of care were activated Sept. 29 because the hospital's capacity is highly fluid and can change constantly based on the number of admitted patients, patients' acuity or availability of resources at referring hospitals, according to a news release from Yukon.

"Every day we are optimizing patient resources to provide the best level of care that we can at that time," said Chief of Staff Ellen Hodges, MD. "We're doing the best for every single patient, regardless of what resources are available at any given time. Unfortunately, however, as a result of the current surge in COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization and limited resources statewide, we are now in a position of making these difficult decisions on a daily basis."

The crisis standards of care were activated at Yukon after the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services enabled the standards statewide Sept. 22 through an addendum to the existing public health emergency order. 

State officials gave healthcare providers a framework to use to make patient care decisions during the pandemic while allowing hospitals to make patient decisions according to their policies and available resources. Each hospital has the ability to activate the standards, and so far, Yukon and Anchorage-based Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state's largest hospital, have done so.

Yukon said operating at contingency or crisis capacity may result in delayed transfer to a referring hospital, expanded nurse ratios, and longer wait times for elective procedures (such as colonoscopy cancer screening, pediatric dental procedures and elective postpartum procedures), among other effects. The hospital said decisions about continuing elective procedures are assessed and made weekly or daily.

Over the last couple weeks, new daily COVID-19 hospitalization rates have increased 6 percent in Alaska, according to data tracked by The New York Times.   

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