Garfield County’s two hospitals have seen a surge in new COVID-19 patients over the past week, but many of these patients are from outside the county.
On Nov. 3, the Colorado Hospital Association raised the state’s hospitals and health systems to the highest level of activation and increased patient transfers between hospitals to manage hospital capacity across the country, a Garfield County news release said.
As a result, Western Slope hospitals are feeling the strain of a nationwide system reaching crisis levels in terms of bed capacity.
“Unfortunately, we are in the same situation as many front range hospitals in terms of bed availability and hospital capacity,” said Dr. Kevin Coleman, Chief Medical Officer at Grand River Health in Rifle, in the press release.
“We partner with all of our neighboring hospitals and work on how we can best serve our communities and patients,” he said. “Our providers have difficulty finding a place for some people in good time when care is needed.”
As of Tuesday, Garfield County’s public health system was tracking only four Garfield County residents hospitalized.
But both Grand River and Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs had far more hospital admissions related to COVID-19 in the past week.
Valley View reported 12 new hospital admissions since Nov. 2. Likewise, Grand River has seen four new COVID-19 hospital admissions since that time last week.
Local hospitals routinely move patients to larger hospital systems when higher levels of care are required. But with bed capacities near crisis levels across the state, patients with less severe symptoms are now being moved, Coleman said.
It is the first time since the pandemic began that patients from areas outside the county have been transferred to Rifle Hospital, he said.
Meanwhile, Garfield County’s public health service has been informed that patients with life-threatening illnesses, in some cases, may wait up to a full day to be seen or taken to a facility that the press release said can provide the care they need.
Within Garfield County, the number of new deaths among the county’s residents has increased by eight in the past five weeks.
Daily COVID-19 cases have also increased from September 11th on September 2nd to November 30th on November 2nd. And the last seven day total was 136 new cases.
“The stresses on hospital capacity are not just affecting the front range,” said Sara Brainard, Garfield County’s public health nurse, in the press release. “The topic is also here on the Western Slope.”
Colorado hospital admissions are at their highest year-round, prompting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help with capacity issues in some parts of the state.
Garfield County’s Public Health Service has also updated its guidelines on what to do when people feel sick.
“It’s never a good time to get sick,” said Brainard. “So we all have to do what we can to prevent the spread of germs and viruses. Do what you can to stay out of the healthcare system: wash your hands, wear a mask in crowded areas, and stay home when you feel sick. “
County residents are still strongly advised to get the COVID-19 vaccination or booster vaccination for those who remain six months after their last dose. Seasonal flu vaccinations are also highly recommended, she said.
“This will help reduce the burden on healthcare and free space for unavoidable emergencies,” said Brainard.
In addition to the boosters, Pfizer is now available for ages 5-11, as well as first and second dose of COVID-19 vaccine at Garfield County’s COVID public health clinics.
Senior Reporter / Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected]