By Marissa Armas

(CBS4)– On Thursday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that there are 1,526 people being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals across the state, and there are only 81 ICU beds available. The lack of beds is creating a dangerous situation for people arriving at hospitals needing emergency services, sometimes even turning them away.

File photo of an emergency entrance at a hospital. (credit: (Credit: Thinkstock/Getty Images)

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Jennifer Wolf’s family is one of those being impacted by the bed shortage in Colorado. Wolf said on Tuesday, her family tried taking their younger sister to Lutheran Medical Center but the hospital wasn’t able to take her sister in and turned them away.

“It’s heartbreaking, and it’s going to continue to affect every choice that we make,” said Wolf. “If she has a seizure, if she has a stroke… if she has sort of emergency, will she have a bed?”

In October, Jennifer’s sister suffered from a brain aneurysm, but earlier this week her sister began having complications needing emergency care. They wanted to return to Lutheran because she had been treated there before but this time the hospital was in “divert” status, meaning they didn’t have any beds available, and any patients arriving in an ambulance had to go elsewhere. Jennifer, who wants to keep her sister’s name private for legal reasons, said the entire situation has caused frustration.

“So we had to send her to another hospital, where they were also full, and the shortages there lead to some situations where they didn’t have an emergency bay for her to wait in,” Wolf said. “So her having this brain injury not knowing where she is, she was laying in the hallway all by herself, disoriented, without her feeding tube connected to her.”

(credit: CBS)

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Sarah Ellis, a spokesperson for Lutheran Medical Center told CBS4, while they aren’t currently in divert status, she confirmed that they were on Tuesday, and said the status changes day-by-day considering the COVID-19 situation. In a statement, Ellis said in part, “Like many hospitals across Colorado, Lutheran Medical Center has seen an increase in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, in addition to staffing shortages and a high volume of other patients over the past several weeks. When combined with the rise in COVID-19 diagnoses, this has resulted in periodic surges in demand, as well as the need to advise ambulances of our capacity (divert) status, in some instances, when we do not have enough beds or staff available to receive additional patients under the circumstances.”

The statement continued, “The Executive Order issued by Gov. Polis does not give any hospital the authority to turn patients away. The order allows overwhelmed hospitals to transfer patients more easily by removing regulatory barriers.” Ellis clarified that while they sometimes have to divert ambulances, anyone who goes to the hospital by foot is not turned away.

Wolf said she doesn’t blame the hospital or staff for the bed shortages, but instead, the Coloradans who are choosing to stay unvaccinated.

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“I just don’t understand why there are folks putting their own needs ahead of community needs,” she said.

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Wolf’s sister eventually got a bed back at Lutheran. She said everyone should hope their loved ones don’t need emergency services soon, because the help needed might not be available.

Marissa Armas