Colorado calls FEMA to help manage understaffed hospitals

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — As hospitalizations surge in Colorado, federal help has been requested to assist.

The governor has declared Colorado a “high-risk environment” and is asking for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The state is actively rolling out its plan to tackle hospital capacity issues statewide.

Hospital administrators told FOX31 plans are constantly evolving to deal with the surge. They add the crisis is not so much a space issue as it is a staffing issue. Space, supplies and staff are the three factors at play when it comes to hospital capacity.

“I am a little surprised that we are kind of in this top tier of states right now,” said Glen Mays, a professor with the Colorado School of Public Health.

The feds are in Colorado to beef up staffing, specifically at Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo.

“Requesting FEMA Medical Surge teams — there is one on the ground right now at Parkview,” the governor said during a virtual meeting Wednesday with members of his COVID-19 response team. “There are two more [FEMA teams] being finalized for the state, and we could very well increase that.”

The governor is working to add 500 hospital beds statewide. The Colorado Hospital Association said its members are still waiting to learn specifically where those beds will be sent. The association said there’s a current target date of Dec. 15, but there is more of a concern right now about staffing for the beds rather than the total number of beds, officials said.

“Burnout and fatigue are real issues for healthcare and public health workers,” Mays said.

The governor acknowledged those realities.

The staffing side of the hospital issue is an even larger one than the space side,” Polis said.

The Polis administration is also working to limit the number of people needing hospitalization by declaring every adult is eligible for a booster.

“Everyone is eligible in Colorado on the argument that you are part of a high-risk environment,” Polis said, referring to the state as a whole.

That state is also working to scale the distribution of monoclonal treatments for high-risk people recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Cosmetic surgeries have already stopped, and coordination is underway to transfer patients as needed from one hospital to the next.

Public health officials said moving to the crisis standards of care for staffing, which the state activated on Tuesday, makes a lot of sense right now. They stressed people should not be too alarmed because a lot has been learned over the course of the pandemic on how to manage these types of situations.

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