September 23

By Meryl Kornfield

Facing overwhelmed hospitals, Alaska became the second state this month to give health-care providers the power to prioritize patients — largely based on their likelihood to survive — for scarce resources and even deny treatment.

“Our case counts are rising,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) said at a Wednesday news conference. “It’s impacting our hospital capacity and the ability to get the care that you need.”

The decision comes amid a surge in delta variant cases that has prompted the Food and Drug Administration to authorize a Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 booster shot for people 65 and older and adults at risk of severe illness.

Alaska on Wednesday activated crisis care of standards, the second state this month to give hospitals the power to allocate scarce resources to patients on a priority basis — largely based on their likelihood to survive — and even the authority to deny some patients treatment.

“Our case counts are rising,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) said at a news conference. “It’s impacting our hospital capacity and the ability to get the care that you need.”

One of the most feared scenarios of the pandemic comes as the state faces a combination of staffing shortages, limited resources and a surge of covid-patients. With 1,224 infections recorded on Tuesday, Alaska reached its highest-reported case number and the most in any state, said Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer. Hospitalizations, especially among the unvaccinated, have also climbed.

“Right now our cases and our hospitalizations are past that curve of hospital capacity,” Zink said.

With the addendum, Alaska joins Idaho — the first to implement statewide crisis standards of care amid the delta surge — in covering health-care providers making patient decisions according to their policies and available resources.

“What this addendum does is it clearly articulates that our health-care providers who act in good faith on behalf of the state have access to these committees, which can help them provide strategies and alternate tools in order to provide care,” said Adam Crum, Alaska’s commissioner of health and social services. “They’re also covered in good faith effort for liability access.”

Last week, the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, implemented crisis standards of care, as its emergency room overflowed and elective surgeries were postponed.

“If you or your loved one need specialty care at Providence, such as a cardiologist, trauma surgeon, or a neurosurgeon, we sadly may not have room now,” Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, a doctor and hospital chief of staff wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to the community. “There are no more staffed beds left.”

0