Little launches COVID-19 antibody treatment centers, directs funds to increase hospital capacity
BOISE- As Idaho hospitals continue to be overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, limiting healthcare access for everyone, Governor Brad Little announced Thursday he is taking additional steps to assist Idahoans and relieve the growing burden on our healthcare system.
Three COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment facilities will be stood up in north Idaho, eastern Idaho, and the Treasure Valley. Monoclonal antibody treatment involves therapeutic medications that are proving to be effective in keeping people from getting severely ill and requiring hospitalization after contracting COVID-19. The centers will help preserve hospital bed capacity for the severely ill.
Specific information about the exact location of the treatment centers will be made available in the coming days. Additional treatment centers may be added later.
Patients visiting the treatment centers must have a referral from a doctor. The treatments are free.
"There are too many unvaccinated people in our hospitals right now. We need to reduce the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations so everyone else can continue to access healthcare for strokes, heart attacks, car accidents, and other emergencies. We need more Idahoans to choose to receive the vaccine. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective way to minimize the spread of the disease to the vulnerable. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is also the most effective way to minimize your own risk of hospitalization from the disease. In addition, the new COVID-19 antibody treatment centers should help preserve bed capacity by preventing hospitalization for some people who contract the disease," Little said.
North Idaho will be the priority, where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the state and where local hospitals are overwhelmed with unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, limiting healthcare access for everyone else.
The new antibody treatment centers come in addition to antibody treatments already provided by hundreds of private healthcare providers across Idaho.
In addition, Little said he is directing $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to address constraints and emerging needs in Idaho hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. The funds will be used to make more physical space available to provide care for COVID-19 patients, address staffing shortages caused by workers getting sick or being exposed to the disease, and safely transition patients out of hospital settings to free up bed capacity.
"All of our hospitals, large and small, are asking more and more of our staff as our COVID hospitalizations continue to increase," said Dr. Rachel Gonzales, CEO of Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg and chair of the Idaho Hospital Association Board of Directors. "This additional funding will help us recognize them for their heroic efforts and fill in some of the gaps where we are stretched so thin."
"In a rural community where staff recruitment was difficult long before COVID, this will be a big help in retaining quality providers in our community during this crisis," said Lenne Bonner, CEO of Clearwater Valley Health in Orofino and St. Mary's Health in Cottonwood. "I appreciate the flexibility the Governor is giving all of us to use this money where it will help us and our community the most."
"The staffing shortage facing senior care facilities is so severe that many facilities cannot accept new patients who desperately need care. This relief will help facilities find the staff necessary to provide quality care to their current patients and will enable facilities to accept new patients, which helps hospitals address the surge they are currently facing," said Robert Vande Merwe, executive director of the Idaho Healthcare Association.
Since the COVID-19 vaccine was made widely available to everyone in May, nearly all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated, according to the news release from the governor's office.
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