DENVER (CBS4)– Although more than 80% of Colorado’s hospital intensive care beds are occupied during the COVID19 pandemic, a CBS4 Investigation earlier this week reported how COVID-19 patients from other states are still being sent to Colorado hospitals.
Now, the Colorado Hospital Association is offering more of an explanation for why that might be occurring.
Cara Welch, Director of Communications for the Colorado Hospital Association, said Wednesday that Colorado hospitals consider their communities to include “surrounding states, especially for hospitals near the border.”
She said Colorado hospitals are evaluating transfers “on a case-by-case basis to ensure we have capacity and can provide the care required (which may be a higher level of care than may be available at the local hospital).”
The CBS4 report found that in recent weeks, COVID-19 patients from Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Wyoming and Montana have been transferred to Colorado hospitals. Welch said about 25 COVID-19 patients have been moved from other states to Colorado hospitals which would amount to less than 3% of COVID -19 positive and suspected COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Colorado.
“Hospital census levels and ability to accept transfers changes constantly”, said Welch, “sometimes even within the hour. So requests are evaluated continuously based on current capacity and capability to provide the care that an individual patient needs.”
UCHealth reported taking in eight COVID-19 patients from four neighboring states.
Dan Weaver, UC Health’s Vice President of Communications, told CBS4, “Our priority is always on caring for our patients and for people throughout the State of Colorado. If our overall capacity was at a level where we were worried we might not be able to care for patients from Colorado, then we wouldn’t accept out-of-state transfer requests.”
HealthOne took in three to four COVID-19 patients from other states in recent days and a spokesperson said it was “due to capacity issues in those other states.”
During an update Wednesday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, administrators warned of “mounting pressure on the healthcare system” due to a rise in hospitalizations.
One health administrator warned Colorado’s ICU hospital capacity could be exceeded in late December if Colorado stays on its current trajectory.
Welch emphasized, “This situation is constantly changing” and said Colorado hospitals are “carefully managing” taking out of state patients.
One Colorado emergency room doctor, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue, suggested to CBS4 the capacity issues for hospitals may not be limited to ICU beds and ventilators but to manpower.
“Capacity relates both to physical rooms and staff ratios,” said the doctor. “When a hospital says they have ‘capacity issues’ and have to transfer, in our current environment, it typically means we don’t have enough nurses,” he said. “If things worsen, this could become the most complex game of musical chairs ever with more and more patients ending up hundreds of miles away from home/family, despite our dashboards showing we still have plenty of “capacity.”