DENVER (KDVR) — Staffing shortages continue to exacerbate the issue of rising COVID hospitalizations in Colorado, but relief may soon be on the way.
This pandemic surge has been different because of the omicron variant’s high level of transmissibility. As a result, large amounts of hospital workers have had to call out sick, leading to quarantines and fewer staffed beds available across the system.
But according to the Colorado Hospital Association, the peak of those call-outs may be behind us.
“We are hearing from some of our hospitals and health systems that staff is reaching a point where they’re able to return to work, they’ve quarantined or their symptoms have improved to a point where they’re able to return, so we’re hopeful that we’ve reached that high plateau,” said CHA spokeswoman Cara Welch.
A spokesperson for HealthONE said the number of healthcare workers calling out sick in its system is trending down, and its situation is steadily improving.
At Centura Health, a spokesperson said they’re seeing a plateau in recent days in the number of caregivers restricted from work and those testing positive for COVID-19.
Colorado mountain communities have already been experiencing more healthcare professionals getting back to work following quarantines and catching omicron. Those communities have seen cases trending down for weeks, as a local public health director said they are three weeks ahead of the rest of the state.
The amount of intensive care unit and acute care beds in use continues to run above 90% in Colorado and has since early September. Welch said on average in 2018 and 2019 the state saw roughly 68% of all beds being used, including ICU, acute care and more. While ICU beds typically run at higher occupancy than that figure, Welch said those numbers never hold as high as they have during the pandemic.
“This is so much higher than what we typically see, especially for a sustained amount of time,” Welch said.
One out of four hospital beds occupied in Colorado is taken by a COVID patient, whether their case is incidental or not. Statewide, 35% of Colorado COVID patients were admitted to the hospital for other reasons, which is known as incidental COVID. Welch said the non-COVID reasons for hospitalization run the gamut.
“We do know that many hospitals are still having to delay schedule procedures,” Welch said. “We have people coming in for trauma through the emergency department, people with medical conditions who come in and of course our respiratory virus season has been very busy this year as well.”