North Texas: Covid-19 Patients Vaccination Status Now Taken Into Consideration When Triaging Patients
[guest post by Dana]
I suspect we will start to see more of these decisions being made as Covid continues to surge throughout parts of the country, and resources become stretched. We are cautioned, however, that although vaccination status is now on the table in North Texas it should not be assumed that a non-vaccinated person will be denied care when competing with a vaccinated patient for an ICU bed. It will just be another factor taken into consideration, along with a patient’s underlying condition and the likelihood that a patient will get better and leave the hospital:
North Texas doctors have quietly developed a plan that seeks to prepare for the possibility that due to the COVID-19 surge the region will run out of intensive-care beds.
If that happens, for the first time, doctors officially will be allowed to take vaccination status of sick patients into account along with other triage factors to see who gets a bed.
A copy of an internal memo written by Dr. Robert Fine, co-chair of the North Texas Mass Critical Care Guideline Task Force, was sent to members of the task force — and leaked to The Watchdog. It summarizes the latest work by the task force, a volunteer group that periodically updates medical guidelines for hospitals in our region. There are about 50 members from various hospitals in the group. Although their recommendations are not enforceable, the guidelines are generally followed.
The one-page summary memo is a “heads up” alert in the event things get worse, says Dr. Mark Casanova, director of clinical ethics for Baylor University Medical Center and a spokesperson for the task force. After Monday’s meeting, doctors had yet to make plans to inform the public.
“We’re trying to decide how to explain this addition to the public,” Casanova said.
Although doctors make triage decisions all the time, the proposed guideline addition is significant. Casanova predicted that if this change were copied by others medical care, for as long as the crisis persists, “is going to look and feel different for everybody who is alive right now in the United States of America.”
Cited concerns: This will hurt communities of color and lower-income Americans where there may be less availability/accessibility of the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Parkland Hospital employees, who are exhausted and stretched to the brink due to staffing shortage and a surge in patients, are pleading with residents to get vaccinated. Parkland’s chief of medicine said there were nearly 500 vacancies from a prolonged shortage made worse by the pandemic. Reinforcements are now headed toward the DFW area to help relieve the limited number of exhausted health care workers burnt out by the Delta variant surge in the region.
Given the limited beds, resources, and health care workers, it makes sense that a patient’s vaccination status now be factored into any decision-making made by those in charge. It’s unfortunate that this is where things are at now, but something’s got to give…