Doctors combat healthcare fatigue along with third COVID-19 wave


DENVER (KDVR) — As COVID-19 enters another week of its third wave, Colorado’s medical staff increasingly feel the their own version of the pandemic fatigue gripping Colorado. Nationally, healthcare workers suffer spikes in depression, anxiety and general burn-out. Colorado is no different.

On the front lines fighting COVID-19 is Dr. Marc Moss of UCHealth University of Colorado, who says state officials should be taken seriously when they ask the public to hang on, practice public health protocols and finish the year strong.

A UC Health spokesperson says, “the overall mortality rate has averaged less than 6% in recent months for COVID patients. But for the most serious ICU cases, the mortality rate is around 20%.”

Colorado hospitals now contain more patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 than at any point in time, including the early lockdown stages of March and April when death rates and fears were at their highest. Eighty-four percent of the state’s ICU beds are in use, and the seven-day average for new admissions matches the pandemic’s height in late April.

The influx creates a vicious cycle of an ever-sicker public and evermore-exhausted healthcare community.

There’s concern people have become fatigued and are not doing enough to protect themselves and others. As the public grows tired of public safety, closed businesses, helter-skelter schooling schedules and deadened social lives, doctors and nurses grow fatigued dealing with patients.

“I think it will be a little bit harder because we’ve been doing this for eight months and it’s a war type of setting,” said Dr. Moss. “And after a while you start to become fatigued. And you have to go back to why you’re here. And you’re here to care for the patients.”

Indeed, data shows healthcare workers needing more and more services for their own mental and emotional health. Denver Health launched a program called RISE – Resiliency in Stressful Events – in collaboration with John’s Hopkins Hospital just before the pandemic began.

According to Denver Health, RISE services have been used nearly 50,000 times since March 29, including group support services, emotional health services, call-in services and direct outreach.

Silver linings are available, however. Exhausted as they may be, healthcare workers do have more and better tools against the pandemic than in March and April. Back then, ICU staffs were just learning to deal with the new coronavirus. Now there are anti-viral medications and steroids that help improve a person’s chances of surviving.

Dr. Moss says during the past eight months the staff has improved it’s ability to care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.

Still, the fast-rising tide of new coronavirus cases is sparking worries that cases could fill Colorado’s ICUs by the end of December. While word of a possible vaccine came out today, it could be next spring before it’s available here.

For now, the state’s top doctors are asking you to continue wearing your mask and not gather in large numbers.

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