By John McCarthy, MD; Darryl Potyk, MD; and Michael J Ryan, MD
As physicians who have worked hard to promote the health of the community, we are very concerned about our local COVID numbers. We fully acknowledge that we are all fatigued and just want the pandemic to go away. Yet, wishing for a miracle or worse – ignoring our local infection rate and its effects on local hospitals – will only make things worse.
Recently, Kootenai Health invoked a “crisis standards of care.” While this is a complex declaration it can be simplified by stating that patients inside and outside of the hospital will not get the care that they normally expect and need. There will be delays in care, and in the worst-case scenario, people will be triaged. At Kootenai, decisions are already being made regarding who will get ICU beds, who will be placed on ventilators, and who can be admitted so care can be directed to those who are most likely to survive. This goes beyond admissions for patients with COVID. It includes the care of patients which we all count on such as admissions for serious infections, heart disease and strokes. We frequently hear that the U.S. health care system is the best in the world, but here we are in Spokane, on the precipice of rationing care, deciding who will live and die, due to a disease that is preventable with a simple vaccination.
It is easy to think that this will not personally affect you as most of us seldom plan on staying in a hospital; yet a surprising number of us need hospital stays. While cause and effect are difficult to establish, it is likely not a coincidence that the North Idaho State Fair was held 10 days before crisis standards were invoked by North Idaho hospitals. Spokane’s County Fair was held recently, with limited masking.
Who decided that it should go on? The children wanting to go back to school? The hospitals shutting down elective surgeries? Was it the health care workers who are overworked and at a breaking point … do you think they are going? Sure, it’s fun and it is an economic driver for some, but with the infectious delta variant circulating among the unvaccinated, it isn’t hard to see what the consequences will be. Even if cases go up by just a little bit, our already stretched hospitals will be pushed over their limits. Quite simply, people will die of COVID and some people, through no fault of their own, will die because they are unable to get into the hospital when they have their heart attack, stroke, or are involved in a motor vehicle accident.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Hoopfest and Valleyfest were canceled because of the risk to our communities. Why is the County Fair proceeding? Yes, it’s outside, but so were Hoopfest and Valleyfest. With our current infection and vaccination rates, with crowding and communal meals, it is highly likely that COVID cases will increase. We need to do everything in our power to avoid overwhelming our local hospitals. The fair should have been canceled. The organizers, our county commissioners and our public health leadership should be held accountable for the consequences. Our county commissioners and public health officer have made a reckless choice to ignore the consequences of this public health emergency. As a result, our economy has faltered, and our grandchildren will be paying for their short-sightedness.
Yes, there is short-term thrill: a ride on a roller coaster, some cotton candy, a short-term economic engine fired up. But it will come at the cost of real people’s lives and health, and a real economic burden for our children and for their children. With this likelihood in mind, we encourage you to hold our leadership accountable for their myopic and dangerous actions.
John McCarthy M.D.; Darryl Potyk M.D.; Michael J Ryan M.D. The opinions expressed are those of the individual signers and not representative of their employers or other affiliations.
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