ICU bed shortage forcing hospitals to find more space

Coronavirus

AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado’s ICU bed capacity has hovered around 94% for more than a week, pushing past the previous peak of the pandemic.

Intensive care units at some individual hospitals are beyond that point. UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital had patients in all 148 ICU beds as of Thursday.

Dr. Jean Kutner, chief medical officer, said the situation is impacting patient care.

“We do have more patients that we’re needing to double up on space. We’re having patients where we’re sort of constantly moving them around the hospital to make sure if a patient needs critical care, then they’re in a critical care bed,” Kutner said.

Kutner said patients may also have to wait in other areas, like the emergency department, for ICU beds to open elsewhere.

This is not the first time their hospital has been strained during the pandemic. Kutner said the key difference now is the influx of non-COVID patients.

University of Colorado Hospital converted a different unit to accommodate approximately 30-40 more ICU patients. Kutner said they can keep adding beds to the space available, but at some point, they won’t have the staff to care for those patients.

Crisis standards actived for Colorado hospitals

The state recently enacted Crisis Standards of Care for hospitals in response to the staffing shortage and rising hospitalizations. Kutner said that allows staff to focus more on the critical parts of patient care and less on administrative work.

She said in some cases, they have to move patients to entirely different regions of the state where beds are available.

“We end up taking care of patients sometimes pretty far from where their family is, where they live, because in order to get them a hospital bed, we need to move them somewhere else in the state where there is an open bed,” Kutner said.

According to numbers from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the “Mile High” region currently has a 5% ICU bed availability, similar to other regions along the Front Range. Southwest Colorado has the highest availability, around 20%.

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