‘We will do everything we can to find them a bed.’

In response to the deteriorating COVID numbers in Colorado and a shortage of hospital beds across the state, Governor Jared Polis issued two executive orders on Halloween that terrified patients and caregivers alike. In the orders it was made clear that hospitals can start operating with “crisis care standards”.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website, this is defined as “guidelines for how, in extreme cases, the medical community should allocate scarce resources such as ventilators and intensive care beds when patient needs exceed available resources.”

Polis also authorized the state health department to order patient transfers or refuse care.

The governor’s actions came as the number of COVID hospital admissions hit a new record for 2021, with 1,847 Coloradans hospitalized on Nov. 1. As of Monday, 32% of facilities expected a shortage of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and 38% expected a staff shortage in the coming week.

Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) wasn’t immune to these challenges, but staff there said the hospital continues to find intensive care beds for GVH patients in need of higher levels of care, including those with COVID.

Andy Bertapelle, chief nursing officer of the GVH, said Monday that healthcare providers in Colorado are seeing increased demand for services from patients who have postponed care earlier in the pandemic, “so much of the volume is not related to COVID has to do “.

Still, “it’s getting tight across the state,” said Bertapelle.

So far, GVH has been doing well with its partnership with St. Mary’s Medical Center in Grand Junction and the facility’s owner, SCL Health, who operates four other hospitals in the Front Range. If GVH needs to find an intensive care bed for a patient, it could be moved to either St. Mary’s or another SCL Health hospital, Bertapelle said.

One consequence of the nationwide bed shortage is that it took GVH longer to find beds for patients in need of transfer. The waiting time was a maximum of eight hours, said Bertapelle.

The governor’s executive orders opened the door to more “sideways” transfers of patients with non-emergency medical conditions to free up beds. This happened between the Montrose Memorial Hospital and the GVH, although Gunnison’s elevated position has prevented the transfer of those with some health problems.

The lateral relocations have tackled what Bertapelle referred to as “trunk jams”.

“It’s about helping,” he said.

As the number of cases increased across the state, GVH has seen a lower rate of hospital admissions. Bertapelle points to Gunnison County’s vaccination rates and the collapse of tourism in the off-season as some of the reasons the county is not following the state-wide trend. 83 percent of Gunnison Counties 12 and older received at least one dose, a higher rate than Mesa, Montrose, and Chaffee counties.

“We’re very busy and we feel busy, but we’re in control here and I think we’re not as bad as some other places in the state,” Bertapelle said.

Nicole Huff, director of the ambulance service at GVH, said the district’s health system was “really doing well” and encouraged residents to seek medical help if needed.

“We don’t want to deter the community from seeking care. We’re going to do everything we can to find her a bed, and we’re not going to let her sit in a hallway somewhere. We’ll find a bed, ”said Huff.

(Sam Liebl can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or [email protected])

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