As COVID-19 hits Colorado and the state is running out of hospital beds, patients are being transferred to Denver – Community News
Covid-19

As COVID-19 hits Colorado and the state is running out of hospital beds, patients are being transferred to Denver

While Colorado is not seeing a record number of COVID-19 cases, the supply of staffed ICU and acute care beds is at its lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

Colorado health officials predict that things will get worse in the coming weeks and the state may run out of space.

“Hospital demand from COVID-19 will increase through the end of December and could potentially exceed our current hospital capacity,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy at the Governors Expert Emergency Epidemic Response Committee meeting last week, CPR reported.

Statewide, 91% of acute care beds were in use Monday, a slight drop from a few days ago when Colorado hit a record high of 94%. As for IC beds, the state hit an all-time high when 95% of beds were occupied less than a week ago, though occupancy was still a staggering 94% on Monday.

In Denver, the numbers were a bit grim: At the start of the week, 94% of staffed ICU beds were occupied and 95% of acute care beds.

“To have both above 90% where we’ve been for the past few weeks … that’s really important,” said Cara Welch, the Colorado Hospital Association’s senior director of communications. “That’s not something we typically see.”

A negative pressure room at St. Joseph Hospital, March 10, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

So what is the state doing about the bed shortage?

The state hospitals recently went into emergency mode and set up Tier 3 of the Combined Hospital Transfer Center. That means that patients can now be transferred from one hospital to another – without saying anything about it. These transfers are centrally coordinated, data-driven and designed to keep the healthcare system running as efficiently as possible, according to the Colorado Hospital Association.

The governor has also urged the state to open 300 to 500 new hospital beds. Figuring out where beds would go is less of a problem than recruiting people to care for patients.

Overburdened nurses have left the profession and there isn’t exactly a crowd of people waiting in the wings. At the start of the pandemic, some health workers came out of retirement to help. There are efforts to bring back more people who have left the field, but no one knows for sure if those recruiting campaigns will work.

“I don’t know if they would be as successful now, given the tone that has been set for many health professionals,” Welch said. “[They face] difficult working conditions, they are no longer hailed as heroes, and instead are sometimes challenged and harassed by patients or relatives or members of the community. So I don’t know if the desire to step into that role is unfortunately still as strong as it was in the beginning.”

The Department of Regulatory Affairs, which oversees professional licensing in Colorado, has also made some shifts to relax standards and speed up the process of getting new health professionals into the field. Both state and federal funding could be used to recruit temporary health workers from national employment agencies.

The state hopes those resources will be more available than in the past as other states see COVID numbers plummet as Colorado finds itself in crisis.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency teams have already started arriving in Colorado to help.

An ambulance yells down Speer on a snowy night.  November 17, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) snow;  coex;  weather;  denver;  winter;  snow;  kevinjbeaty;  Colorado;  denverite;

What does all this mean for hospitals and patients in Denver?

Even in non-COVID times, patients are routinely transferred from rural areas to Denver’s better-equipped and staffed hospitals. Hospitals are normally willing to accept patients from all over the region.

During COVID, Denver’s hospitals are generally better equipped with expensive and life-saving technology, such as ventilators. This means that more COVID-19 patients will be brought here from outside the metro, under the transfer system.

But as the city approaches maximum bed capacity, transferring patients from other areas to Denver will impact the way local patients are treated.

The main difference is that once you go to the hospital in Denver, once you stabilize, you can be moved to a mountain town or hospital in a rural setting to make room for patients who have been transported to the city — even if you object to that.

This can have major consequences for family and friends who want to visit and have to drive into the mountains or Eastern Plains.

When people are fired, they are transported to their hometowns. they would not Getting stuck with the inter-hospital transfer tab, thanks to the Colorado Division of Insurance’s emergency rules.

Mayor Michael Hancock joins Governor Jared Polis for a statewide mask warrant press conference.  July 16, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Don’t blame out-of-state people for clogging hospital beds.

“In terms of out-of-state transfers, we don’t actually see that in abundance in our hospitals,” said Stephanie Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Denver hospital network HealthONE, which oversees Centennial Hospital, North Suburban Medical Center, Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center, Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, Rose Medical Center, Sky Ridge Medical Center, Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital, Swedish Medical Center, and the Medical Center of Aurora.

So who fills those beds?

“We really see the capacity being driven by members of the wider Colorado community,” she noted.

Cynthia Martir stands with her grandmother, Sharon Carter, after she received a COVID-19 shot at a mobile clinic on Chambers Road and Colfax Avenue in Aurora.  July 23, 2021.

What now? No surprise, there are concrete things we can all do to prevent the spread of COVID — even if we’re exhausted from it.

“We all have COVID fatigue, right?” said Welch. “We want to move on. We want to be done wearing our masks and taking all these precautions, but unfortunately we are back in an incredibly difficult place, and we need Coloradans to come back a little bit and pay attention and do their part. to do again. ”

That means people should get vaccinated, get booster shots if they qualify, wear masks in public areas regardless of vaccination status, and get their flu shots to curb flu season.

A woman lines up in front of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's first community testing center for COVID-19 at the state lab on March 11, 2020 in Denver.  The drive-up testing center at 8100 E. Lowry Blvd, was open from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. to prescription patients.
Pool photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post

Don’t avoid medical help.

Early on in the pandemic, patients postponed their own healthcare. Now they come to hospitals extremely sick.

“It is really worrying to read that hospitals are full. We are stretched to the limit. All these things happen,” Welch said. “And we are concerned that they will cause people to postpone their own healthcare again. And that’s why we want people to remember to seek healthcare when they need it. And they have to do that at the right level, at the right time and in the right place.”

Rather than put off health checks and other doctor visits, Welch encouraged people to go immediately and address any health concerns before they become major problems. Denver has numerous emergency care facilities where non-life-threatening injuries can be treated without a hospital visit.

If you feel like going to the hospital, there is no mixed message: just go!

“If you need medical care, if you have a life-threatening condition, go to the hospital’s emergency department,” she said. “And if that hospital stabilizes you and then you have to transfer to another hospital, they’ll do it safely. You will still get the care you need. We just don’t want people to stay at home and avoid all of that because they’re concerned about how full the hospitals are.”