Late last week, Idaho stood up its first Medical Operations Coordination Cell (MOCC) calls in response to COVID. The name may sound innocuous, but it could be the most ominous action taken so far by our healthcare system during this pandemic. To deal with the expanding overflow of patients, hospitals and EMS leaders are working together on a process to coordinate rolling closures of emergency departments, while still making sure people have a place to go for immediate care.
Activating a MOCC is one of the final steps before moving into Crisis Standards of Care. That’s the point at which actual healthcare rationing will take place and when medical professionals will be forced to make the best possible decisions in a bad situation. The trajectory we are on with COVID cases, hospitalizations, and staffing shortages will soon overrun too many of our hospitals. We are already experiencing cases of hospitals being forced to divert patients to other facilities because they lack capacity.
In Idaho, we’ve had floods, fires, and big accidents. This is a new type of disaster that is difficult for many to visualize. Instead of a sudden natural disaster in a single location, we are experiencing a booming rate of hospitalizations all over the state. We can’t easily evacuate patients to other areas because those sites are experiencing the same disaster. At this rate, a statewide healthcare crisis is imminent.
In many disasters, Idaho’s nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers have volunteered to go into harm’s way to help. As recently as last year, they headed to New York and Seattle to give their counterparts a hand with COVID patients. Now, we find ourselves in the place where we need help.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any help to be had. Idaho is on its own.
Hospitals across the country are in the same position – bursting at the seams with no end in sight. Hospitals and healthcare entities have worked for years preparing and planning for disasters, individually and jointly. Your friends and neighbors in healthcare constantly work to assure patients have a place for the care they need, but we’ve reached a breaking point. As a result, that care may not be where or as fast as you’d like it to be.
Hospitals are doing everything they can to prepare for a firestorm that is no longer in the distance. The storm is here. For those of you who do your part, our thanks. For those who were on the fence waiting for FDA approval of a vaccine, my hope is you will now join the efforts to build that viral fire break before things burn out of control.
Brian Whitlock ~ President/CEO, Idaho Hospital Association