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DENVER (KDVR) — Staffing shortages at Colorado’s hospitals have officially reached crisis mode.

The state on Tuesday activated its crisis standards of care in regard to healthcare staffing, which it says will allow hospitals to treat more patients. The crisis standards of care are “guidelines for how the medical community should allocate scarce resources,” according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Activating the crisis standards of care for staffing “allows hospitals to implement staffing solutions to best meet the increasing medical needs of their communities,” CDPHE said in a release. “Upon activation, these crisis standards of care for staffing of health care systems may be implemented to best manage the current influx of patients who need care for COVID-19 or any other illness.”

What does activating the crisis standards of care mean for hospitals?

Although the crisis standards of care can apply to resources like intensive care unit beds or ventilators, it applies specifically in this case to staffing.

What this means is that hospitals suffering capacity limitations can implement the standards to do things like can change staff to patient ratios, according to the state. Staff can be cross-trained for other positions and learn new skill sets.

It allows hospitals to take steps to relieve staff burnout, like reducing meetings, administrative responsibilities and documentation requirements for healthcare workers. Hospitals can also adjust staff schedules to help minimize fatigue.

Hospitals could also choose to pause elective procedures — beyond the existing statewide halt on cosmetic procedures — because of reassigned staff.

What’s impacting staff in Colorado’s hospitals?

In a memo on the activation, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric France said healthcare staffing has been impacted by:

  • COVID-19 illness
  • increased workloads because of hospitals working at capacity
  • staff burnout

Colorado’s hospitals had already reached a critical point on Oct. 31 when Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order on patient transfers. The order activates the highest tier available to manage patient transfers, allowing facilities to relocate patients, including non-COVID-19 patients, to relieve capacity issues.

Polis also issued a statewide halt on cosmetic procedures for six months.