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Colorado activates crisis standards of care for health care staffing

Colorado has activated the portion of its crisis standards of care plan that deals with staffing health care systems.

DENVER — Colorado has activated the portion of its crisis standards of care (CSC) plan that deals with staffing health care systems.

The move allows hospitals to prioritize staff for emergencies and reduce the level of care provided for non-emergencies. 

The state said these standards do not impact anyone's access to acute emergency treatment, and they continue to encourage anyone who needs it to seek medical care. 

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Individual health care systems must notify the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) when they activate and deactivate crisis standards of care for staffing.

As of Tuesday, nearly 40% of facilities expect staffing shortages within the next week.

The CSC allows hospitals to take steps to alleviate burnout, including minimizing meetings and relieving administrative responsibilities, reducing documentation requirements for health care workers and adjusting staff schedules.

It gives hospitals the flexibility to move staff, and it offers guidelines for how and when family members can help with feeding and bathing to free up workers. It even provides legal protection if care isn't what usually would be standard.

The state said under the CSC, hospital staff will receive cross-training, and healthcare workers can participate in other training to take over positions.

"If you get into a car accident, if you have a heart attack, if your sugars are really high and you have a diabetic emergency, all of those things mean that you may have a different level of care had you not come in today versus six months ago," said Dr. Comilla Sasson who works in an emergency department in Denver.

The state said while there has not been a statewide pause on elective procedures, individual hospitals can choose to pause these procedures in order to reassign staff. 

"We would normally need to have one nurse for every three people on a medical floor, but because we are so crowded and we just don't have enough nursing staff, we might end up having one nurse for every four or five or six people on a medical floor," said Dr. Matt Wynia who helped craft Colorado's CSC during the pandemic. 

RELATED: Colorado doctor explains crisis standards of care, calls hospital situation 'dire'

The state is not activating the portions of the crisis standards of care that deal with emergency medical services, hospital and acute care facilities, out-of-hospital care providers, specialty patient populations or personal protective equipment. 

Colorado has activated a portion of the crisis standards of care plan at least once since it was implemented in April 2020. On April 7, 2020, the state activated the portion that deals with personal protective equipment. That CSC was deactivated on June 30, 2021.  

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