Inslee, Idaho Gov. Brad Little clash over ‘clogging’ of Washington hospitals

Sep 22, 2021, 5:42 AM | Updated: Sep 29, 2021, 3:32 pm
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (left, Office of the Governor) and Idaho Gov. Brad Little (right, Getty Images).
(right, Getty Images)

With COVID-19 rates in Idaho skyrocketing and Washington hospitals beginning to feel the impact, Governor Jay Inslee issued a plea to Idaho’s Governor Brad Little to “take some common sense measures” to fight the pandemic.

Idaho’s medical crisis is ‘becoming our problem’ in Washington

Inslee’s comments came as part of a larger interview with MSNBC, where he said he was “disappointed the governor of Idaho has spent more time trying to reduce protection by reducing vaccine usage instead of concentrating on (common sense measures), and then clogging up my hospitals.”

All of Idaho recently went into crisis standards of care, a medical designation typically issued during a disaster event when there are not enough resources to care for everyone with serious medical needs.

That’s meant an additional burden on Washington, which is required by federal law to accept out-of-state hospital patient transfers if space is available. With Washington already dealing with its own issues finding room for patients needing to be transferred from its smaller hospitals to larger facilities, Idaho’s COVID crisis has quickly become a multi-state emergency.

“Washington citizens in many cases cannot get heart surgery, cannot get cancer surgery that they need, because we are having to take too many people of unvaccinated nature and unmasked, many of whom come from Idaho, and that’s just maddening, frankly,” Inslee said.

How would crisis standards of care be enacted in Washington?

Other health officials have been similarly critical, with Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer imploring Idaho to “do more.”

“They should have a mask mandate, they should be canceling large events,” Sauer said in a recent briefing. “They are not doing what they need to do to prevent the spread of the disease in their state, and it spills over into our state.”

Idaho has faced criticism for its relatively lax COVID restrictions throughout the pandemic, having opted against mask and vaccine mandates. That’s all culminated in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the entire nation. Despite that, Gov. Little pointed to “hot spots for virus activity” and low vaccination rates in Spokane County in a response to Inslee issued on Monday.

Spokane County — which has been among the Eastern Washington counties receiving Idaho’s overflow hospital patients — currently has 47% of its total population fully vaccinated. Idaho’s total vaccination rate as a state is just under 41%.

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Inslee, Idaho Gov. Brad Little clash over ‘clogging’ of Washington hospitals