By CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– Colorado health care providers are creating protocols for treatment in the event they need to start rationing care. State Epidemiologist, Dr. Rachel Herlihy says, if the rate of adults getting COVID-19 booster shots doesn’t improve, Colorado will have more than 2,200 people hospitalized with COVID by the first of the year. That would be the most the state has had during the pandemic.

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Dr. Anuj Mehta developed a draft plan that no one wants to see implemented. It would prioritize who gets treated at the hospital and who gets sent home.

While it is still preliminary, the initial draft calls for a triage team – that includes a mix of experts in medicine and ethics – to make the decision. The larger question is how they would make the decision. Mehta is part of a state advisory group charged with deciding the criteria.

Mehta says the problem isn’t a shortage of lifesaving equipment but staff, “These are different than the ventilator decisions about who’s the most likely to die. This is who’s the most likely to be fine without the intervention.”

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The group discussed discharging some people early and treating others at home instead of in the hospital.

“And I think that concept of safe enough is critical,” said Mehta.

Socioeconomic status, he says, could be a factor in the decision-making.

“I would hate to use a criterion that was purely clinical and end up sending someone home who is homeless and keeping someone in the hospital who is wealthy and could very well afford to have someone come in on them and check on them.”

How much care a patient needs may also be a consideration. Matthew Wynia, Director of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Colorado says, “You would be looking at, well, look, if we could save three people with these resources, or one person with these resources, we should save the three.”

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For now, the doctors say, vaccination status will not influence the decision, “Our ethical principles are to save the most lives not evaluate social responsibility.”

The advisory group also discussed coming up with a scoring system and algorithms that could assist in making decisions about who gets inpatient and who gets outpatient care. The group could vote on a final version as early as Monday. The governor would then have to activate it.

Shaun Boyd