Life and death decisions of COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus Updates

MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Healthcare professionals are expecting the surge of COVID-19 cases to happen in Utah by the end of April.

Utahns really have two choices to make. Stay at home to protect your love ones or risk putting them in a predicament where doctors may have to choose who survives when the surge of COVID-19 happens.

The Utah Hospital Association and the Utah Department of Health came up with the Crisis Standards of Care Guidelines in June of 2018.

It states, “It is estimated that a pandemic of similar severity to the 1918 flu would, in Utah alone, leave one million ill and 16,000 dead, while creating 80,000 hospitalizations and 13,000 ICU hospitalizations.”

“As events play out, if we do need to start making triage decisions it would be under the order of the governor or some health authority,” said Greg Bell the President and CEO of Utah Hospital Association. “Hopefully, doctors are not going to have to make those triage decisions.”

Utah Department of Health State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn added to that saying, “That is going to be a statewide effort. So we are really committed to having a statewide policy moving forward on all things COVID-19, especially with triaging patients and where they can get the care they need. Currently, all of our healthcare systems are able to handle the patients that come into their hospital right now, so we haven’t had the need to activate those teams.”

If it gets to that point administrators will need to implement a Crisis Triage Officer Team at their hospital and use the Patient Prioritization Tool. It takes into account someone’s age, Anesthesiologist Physical Classification System, and estimated survival.

Utah Patient Prioritization Tool

“If a patient is susceptible because of multiple underlying conditions and age because they are immune-compromised or something, then clearly they are going to be prioritized at a lower level than someone who is young and strong expected to recover,” said Bell.

A lot of that will come down to resources like personal protection equipment and ventilators.

In 2018, the report stated, “We believe that 6,400 patients may require ventilator support, while we have only around 600 ventilators in Utah currently.”

File photo of a hospital room

On Tuesday, Dr. Dunn added, “The Department of Health in conjunction with the Department of Public Safety is working very closely with all of our hospitals to get an accurate count of statewide capacity for ventilators. We do not have that number yet, but we are working with all of the health care systems to get that and be able to share it with you all.”

Bell said based on current models, Utah has enough ventilators to meet the need of residents.

Plus, he said hospitals can manipulate machines to be used as ventilators if needed.

“We are not seeing the use of pediatric ventilators because children are not being as affected as people know, so we can have pediatric ventilators for adult situations. We have mobile ventilators we can use. Some areas of the state are much harder hit than others. We can move ventilators around the state,” Bell said. “We are not even close to that point. I mean we have COVID patients but we have the capacity, we are prepared, we think we are ready for the surge.”


Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.