Washington healthcare leaders draft statewide plan for care rationing

State and healthcare officials in Washington state have begun drafting plans for their worst-case scenario: denying patients complete medical care if the coronavirus overwhelms the health system in coming weeks.

Approximately 280 people were on a three-hour conference call Wednesday, including CMOs and nursing leaders for most of the state’s hospitals and health systems and representatives from the Washington State Hospital Association and state chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the New York TImes reported.

As of 8 a.m. CDT Friday, Washington had 1,187 cases of the coronavirus in the state and 68 deaths. 

The triage plan, still in progress, will assess factors such as age, health and likelihood of survival in determining who will get access to full care and who will merely be provided comfort care, with the expectation that they will die.

Other considerations leaders shared with the New York Times

  • The goal in developing criteria for prioritizing care is to provide fair and evenly applied practices across the region, reducing the likelihood of variation in care depending on which hospital a patient goes to. 
  • Another goal of drafting the plan is to avoid putting responsibility on individual physicians and nurses to make such decisions and reduce the anguish they would experience in denying care. 
  • One leader noted the crisis strategies are not something anyone wants to anticipate, but it would be worse to be unprepared in the event they are needed.

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