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Another Alaskan hospital announces rationed care amid delta surge

A second hospital in Alaska has said that it will need to start rationing care, citing a surge of COVID-19 cases.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, based in Bethel, Alaska, announced on Wednesday that it had activated crisis standards of care, which guides health care providers through decisions on how to prioritize treating patients given limited resources.   

The guidance uses a system to evaluate their recovery chances, including the status of their organs and how many “life years” they have. It does not use other determinations, such as whether a patient has been vaccinated against COVID-19, in evaluating a person.

One of the biggest impacts of rationed care can include a reduction of elective surgeries.

“Every day we are optimizing patient resources to provide the best level of care that we can at that time,” chief of staff Ellen Hodges said in a statement on Wednesday. “We’re doing the best for every single patient, regardless of what resources are available at any given time. Unfortunately, however, as a result of the current surge in COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization and limited resources statewide, we are now in a position of making these difficult decisions on a daily basis.”

Hospital officials noted in their Wednesday announcement that they had tried to avoid rationing care but noted that they were operating at capacity.

“YKHC has done everything in our power to delay the activation of these guidelines,” President and CEO Dan Winkelman said in a statement on Wednesday. “We urge every resident of the Yukon-Kuskokwim region to get vaccinated, wear a mask in indoor public areas, and social distance. With our hospital and our referral hospitals at capacity, this is our last stand against this virus.” 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alaska reported 664 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 1,289 the day prior. In contrast, daily cases were in the double digits in June and early July.

Roughly 69 percent of Alaskans aged 12 years and older have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 61 percent are fully vaccinated, per CDC data.

Earlier this month, another Alaskan hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, the largest hospital in the state, announced that it would be rationing care, The Associated Press reported.


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