Hospitals in Utah will soon be forced begin prioritizing younger COVID-19 patients over older ones amid surging rate of hospitalizations from the virus in the state, doctors warned Utah’s governor on Thursday.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that hospital administrators in the state asked Gov. Gary Herbert (R) to approve a plan that would take drastic steps to reduce intensive care unit (ICU) admissions in the event of hospital ICUs being overwhelmed, which they said was a serious possibility in the days ahead.
If ICUs are nearing capacity, patients who are not seen to be improving even with intensive care will be asked to consider moving to a regular hospital bed. Doctors will also be asked to clearly communicate with patients about do-not-resuscitate orders.
“These discussions on goals of care need to occur independently from triage decisions,” read the guidelines, according to the newspaper. “Providers must be careful not to coerce patients or their families.”
Once ICUs reach capacity, hospitals will take matters into their own hands to determine ICU priority, according to the Tribune. Lower priority will be given to patients who are older if two patients are otherwise equally eligible for an ICU bed, while those who are pregnant receive higher priority.
A spokesperson for Herbert’s office and other state officials confirmed to the Tribune and other news outlets that ICUs in the state are nearing capacity, but did not confirm if Herbert would approve the plan proposed by hospital administrators.
“Right now, it feels very close to being under the crisis standards of care. The [hospital administrators] were very clear about the level of stress that they’re under,” said Joe Dougherty, an official with Utah’s Division of Emergency Management. “We can have a public health order…but even with that in place, we still need people to choose to limit their gatherings.”
“We are not there yet, but we are too close, uncomfortably close,” added a spokesman for the governor.
Utah’s daily rate of new coronavirus cases is now double what it was at the peak of the first wave of cases earlier this year, with state officials reporting 1,543 new cases on Saturday, according to The New York Times. 319 patients are currently hospitalized across the state with the virus, while 568 deaths have been reported in the state since the pandemic began.