Surgeries to remove brain tumors have been postponed. Patients are backed up in the emergency room. Nurses are working brutal shifts. But at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, the calls keep coming: Can Idaho send another patient across the border?
Washington state is reeling under its own surge of coronavirus cases. But in neighboring Idaho, 20 miles down Interstate 90 from Spokane, unchecked virus transmission has already pushed hospitals beyond their breaking point.
“As they’ve seen increasing COVID volumes, we’ve seen increasing calls for help from all over northern Idaho,” said Dr. Daniel Getz, chief medical officer for Providence Sacred Heart. As he spoke, a medical helicopter descended with a new delivery.
At a time when Washington hospitals are delaying procedures and struggling with their own high caseloads, some leaders in the state see Idaho’s outsourcing of COVID patients as a troubling example of how the failure to aggressively confront the virus in one state can deepen a crisis in another.
On the Washington side of the border, residents must wear masks when gathering indoors, students who are exposed to COVID face quarantine requirements, and many workers are under vaccination orders. On the Idaho side, none of those precautions are in place.