Colorado implements crisis standards of care plan amid staffing shortages

Colorado implements crisis standards of care plan amid staffing shortages
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Colorado activated its crisis standards of care plan on Tuesday to help hospitals determine how to allocate limited staff as emergency shortages and COVID-19 admissions rock health systems across the state.

The state implemented the crisis standards specifically to allow hospitals to prioritize certain health workers for care, as almost 40 percent of hospitals expect shortages within the next week, according to state data

Under the crisis standards of care, Colorado aims to increase the availability of health care workers, while improving workplace safety and worker resilience in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. 

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“Activating staffing crisis standards of care allows health care systems to maximize the care they can provide in their communities with the staff they have available,” state Chief Medical Officer Eric France said.

But the activation of crisis standards of care does not mean residents should avoid “necessary health care,” he said, including going to the emergency room.

Twenty months into the pandemic, Colorado health care workers, like many across the country, are facing COVID-19 infections, higher work volumes and burnout, which all contribute to the staffing shortages. 

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To address this, the state suggests decreasing meetings and administrative responsibilities during such a crisis, cutting down on documentation requirements and changing staff schedules to prevent fatigue. 

Hospitals need to inform the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment when activating and deactivating the crisis standards of care.

The state’s crisis of standards of care are not in effect for emergency medical services, hospitals and acute care facilities, out of hospital care providers or personal protective equipment. Elective procedures are still permitted, although the department noted individual hospitals can decide to halt them to redistribute staff. 

For patients, the crisis standards of care for staffing may alter the ratio of staff to patients, allowing health care workers to “attend to more patients,” according to the department.

Gov. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Colorado trucker's case provides pathways to revive pardon power Biden addresses Coloradans after wildfires: 'Incredible courage and resolve' MORE (D) has already sought to block any hospital overflow through an executive order that allows health systems to transfer patients so hospitals can stay under capacity. 

The state currently has 72 percent of its hospital beds full, including 12.6 percent with confirmed COVID-19 patients, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. 

In intensive care units, 85 percent of beds are occupied, including 35 percent with confirmed coronavirus patients. A total of 51 percent of its critical care ventilators are occupied, according to state data.

More than 80 percent of Colorado adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.