‘Very disheartening’: Kootenai Health reports highest number of monthly COVID-19 deaths

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Kootenai Health keeps hitting grim milestones in the fight against COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the hospital said it had 115 COVID-19 patients in its care. Of those, 41 are in critical care and 17 are on ventilators. The hospital says in addition to those COVID patients, they do have more they’re caring for in addition to being on ventilators.

“That stretches our capacity quite a bit,” said Dr. Robert Scoggins, the medical director of the ICU and chief of staff for Kootenai Health.

Scoggins said they continue to see an “unusual” number of deaths in the ICU and in the hospital from the virus. Kootenai Health hit the highest death number during the pandemic this month, with 34 people dying from the virus.

“From my standpoint, it’s been disheartening to see these patients die, several of them younger. They’re patients we get to know. They spend many days in the ICU and we do everything we can to get them better and get them out. As we’ve learned with COVID, sometimes, we’re unsuccessful in that,” Scoggins said.

The hospital averaged about 20 deaths a month before the pandemic, Scoggins said. This month, in addition to 34 COVID-19 deaths, they had 19 people die from other issues. Comparing this month to last, Scoggins said they had 24 COVID-19 deaths.

“Very disheartening, very surprising, trying to choose the right words. I’ve signed a lot of death certificates in the last couple months, and a lot of death certificates of young people who I don’t think should’ve been hospitalized,” he said.

Deaths, Scoggins said, can be preventable because of the COVID-19 vaccine. A majority of people hospitalized are not vaccinated, which is what the hospital has seen for months.

Scoggins said a majority of people do regret their decision about not getting vaccinated. However, some still “hold onto these beliefs that vaccines are not effective or have all sorts of other ideas.”

As Kootenai Health deals with the surge, it still needs more help with staffing to help meet that demand.

Federal resources such as staff from the Department of Defense and the U.S General Services Administration have been helping the hospital.

Jeremy Evans, the chief regional operations officer with Kootenai Health, said they’ve been able to extend the contracts for federal staff into November. The contract was set to originally end on Thursday.

“We are still short to meet that additional surge and demands with capacity,” Evans said.

In addition to that, Evans said other hospitals and clinics are letting 15 to 20 staff members come to work an extra shift at Kootenai Health.

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