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With fewer COVID patients, St. Luke's stands down most of its surge capacity, resumes non-emergency procedures

St Luke's Hospital Building
Frankie Barnhill
Boise State Public Radio

Leaders of the state's largest hospital system said about 5,000 medical procedures have been delayed due to the fall surge of COVID-19 patients. Many are orthopedic surgeries like knee and hip replacements. Pediatric procedures were paused too.

As the COVID surge declines, St. Luke's has been able to shutter many of its overflow capacity areas, and return many staff pulled into special jobs during the surge to regular duty.

The hospital's Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Sandee Gehrke, told media Thursday paused procedures have resumed.

"We have case review teams in each of our hospitals that are managing that backlog," Gehrke said, "evaluating where we have room and what cases have been waiting and who's been waiting the longest."

Dr. Frank Johnson, Chief Medical Officer at St. Luke's Boise, McCall and Elmore County hospitals estimated the backlog could take six months to catch up.

He said some of the highest priority procedures to resume are the pediatric cases.

"Some kids with neurologic conditions, for example, that's not an emergency. They don't have a current infection or crisis," Johnson said. "But they're suffering. We need to get those surgeries done as soon as we reasonably can."

Johnson said he was "cautiously optimistic" that increases in vaccinations has the worst of the delta surge in the rear-view mirror. The hospital system is close to returning to contingency standards of care, one level below crisis standards.

Neither St. Luke's or Saint Alphonsus hospitals has had to delay emergency surgeries while under crisis standards.

A spokesman for Saint Alphonsus said it has also resumed some previously delayed procedures – but a specific number was not available.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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