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Colorado reactivates crisis care services in hospitals due to surge in Covid-19 (part 1 of 2)

Touring the ICU at Mercy Medical Center in Durango you see closed isolation doors adorned with caddies holding PPE supplies, such as gloves, gowns, and masks for hospital staff.
Sarah Flower
Touring the ICU at Mercy Medical Center in Durango you see closed isolation doors adorned with yellow caddies, filled with personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses.

Colorado has reinstated its crisis standards of care for hospital staffing due to the recent influx of Covid-19 cases and patients needing a higher level of treatment. KSUT’s Sarah Flower reports on how one area hospital is handling this surge.

Interview Transcription:

Sarah Flower 
Hospital staff at Mercy Regional Medical Center is abuzz with caring for patients of both COVID-19 and other conditions. Colorado hospitals are at a crippling point of reaching their capacity soon. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is reporting over 1430 patients currently hospitalized with the virus - and 95% of the state's ICU beds are in use. Those numbers are far surpassing statewide models from health experts on what the pandemic was predicted to look like at this point. If cases continue on this path, Colorado could reach the highest numbers since the beginning of the pandemic. Dr. Chris Hudson is the Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango. He took me on a tour through their busy Intensive Care Unit. Closed isolation doors are adorned with yellow caddies, filled with personal protective equipment for doctors and nurses. One dry erase board outside of a room says "family Zoom session in progress, please do not interrupt". With COVID numbers across the state surging, Colorado is reactivating crisis standards of care for staffing of healthcare systems to help manage the recent influx of patients who need care for COVID-19 or any other illness. Dr. Hudson says the hospital does not have to put forth those measures just yet.

Dr. Chris Hudson
We have not had to enact crisis standards of care here. Obviously, we've been very busy, but I have no concerns whatsoever about the quality of care that we're providing. We continue to shift those resources so that we don't end up in a position where we would have to move into crisis standards of care. A lot of it comes down to, it can be staffing ratios, so how many patients does each nurse or physician take care of? It can be the types of individuals providing care, is it an intensive care physician, is it a family medicine physician, those things can vary, but for us, we've not had to alter any of those standards of care here at Mercy.

The CDPHE is showing nearly 40% of hospitals will experience staff shortages within a week. Dr. Hudson says while staffing is tight at Mercy, they're able to flex staff members into the emergency room and ICU from other departments.

Dr. Hudson
The staff here is tired. They're burned out. They're exhausted, emotionally, psychologically, physically from the high level of patient care. But yet they are extremely resilient. They come to work each day and support each other. We have a meeting every day with leadership and we look at the hospital census, we look at the number of beds that are available. We look at our current staffing. And we really work as a team and it's been great to see you know, perhaps labor and delivery has a slow day they'll send some staff down to the emergency department to help them. Staffing is an issue across the country. And we definitely at times have challenges mainly just because of our high census.

Mercy is reporting the average daily census of COVID-19 patients at just over 17 With 15 new positive cases from clinic visits from the week of November 3 through the 9th. Mercy's facility is an 82 bed acute care hospital. Dr. Hudson did not comment on the specific number of ICU beds, because he says that number is fluid.

Dr. Hudson
The number of beds in, whether it's the intensive care unit, our transitional care unit, or on the floors, those beds can be adapted and changed to meet whatever the accommodations are. And so we have the capability to surge up on ICU beds, surge up on the TCU beds and at times we've had to do that. And so we just adjust accordingly. And at times what that means is if we're pretty full, we have had to cancel some elective surgeries that require an inpatient bed you know, it's a very dynamic and fluid situation and that's why we meet every single day and assess the staffing, assess what services we're providing, and make adjustments so that we can be sure that the community has the care they need when they need it.

Dr. Hudson says Mercy is offering monoclonal antibody treatment through the emergency department. But patients do need to talk to their primary care provider first to assess whether they meet the criteria or not. With such high transmission of COVID 19 throughout Colorado, state health officials are now saying all vaccinated adults qualify for booster shots once enough time has elapsed since their original inoculation.

Part two of this story will feature San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, tomorrow, November 12, 2021.

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