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Alaska allows hospitals to ration care as resources grow scarce amid COVID spike

Three facilities had announced their own emergency protocols prior to the state's declaration.

Updated: October 3, 2021 - 8:20pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Emergency crisis protocols have been activated in Alaska, allowing 20 medical facilities to ration care as necessary during a COVID-19 spike in the U.S.

Three facilities covered by the declaration Saturday had already announced their own emergency protocols, including Alaska's largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, The Associated Press reported.

"Today's action recognizes that Alaska has an interconnected and interdependent health care system, requiring the need for activation of the state's decision-making framework. That framework includes a progression of conventional, contingency and crisis standards," said the state health department in its statement announcing the emergency protocol activation.

Alaska's health commissioner, Adam Crum, said, "I want to stress that our health care facilities in Alaska remain open and able to care for patients. Alaskans who need medical care should not delay seeking it, even during these difficult times."

The state activated emergency protocols as medical resources at some facilities grew scarce, staff was limited, and limited bed availability made it difficult to transfer patients, according to the AP.

One person in every 84 people in Alaska was diagnosed with COVID-19 from Sept. 22 to Sept. 29, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The next highest rate is in West Virginia, with one in every 164 people.

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital activated its own emergency protocols on Friday before it was covered by the state's as it lacked enough beds, staff, and monoclonal antibody treatments, in addition to being unable to transfer patients, the wire service reported.

"The move to Crisis Standards of Care is not something we take lightly," according to a statement by Fairbanks Chief Medical Officer Dr. Angelique Ramirez. "This is in response to a very serious surge of COVID in our community."

The state reported 1,044 new cases on Friday, with 108 of them in the Fairbanks area. On Saturday, 35% of patients were being treated for COVID-19, the hospital said, according to the AP.

There has been a total of 110,850 COVID-19 cases in Alaska since March 2020, which has about a 731,000 population. So far, 2,432 people have been hospitalized, and 557 have died, according to the state health department. Over 24,000 new cases were reported in the state in September.

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