FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Starting next week, a medical response team from the Department of Defense will be working side-by-side with UCHealth health care workers in Fort Collins as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue their rise across the state.
Earlier this week, state health officials said current trends still indicate hospitalizations in the state could peak at or near the current maximum capacity.
A team of approximately 20 nurses, providers, respiratory therapists and administrators will be deployed to UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital (PVH) in Fort Collins to support hospital staff and patients, and ease capacity and staffing challenges, according to the UCHealth system. They'll be there for about a month.
As of Thursday morning, UCHealth is caring for 373 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across the state. This is the highest number the health system has seen this year. Approximately 140 of those patients require intensive care. Approximately 100 of the total number of patients are being cared for at UCHealth’s hospitals in northern Colorado, including PVH.
“We are so grateful that this team will assist us in providing exceptional care in northern Colorado,” said Kevin Unger, president and chief executive officer at PVH and UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. “We anticipate this additional support and other plans we already have in the works will help make a significant difference.”
The additional support was made possible by FEMA after a request from the state. Another federal team is currently supporting a Pueblo hospital.
“Our providers and staff have been working long, hard days and nights for more than 20 months now. They are weary but continue to show up every day to serve our community with pride,” Unger said. “They will appreciate the support.”
Not only will this help boost staffing at PVH, but it also will free up additional staff members and providers to support operations at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland and Greeley Hospital.
“We know the individuals on this medical response team will be spending the holidays away from their families, friends and homes to help us care for our community,” Unger said. “We thank them for their service and their sacrifice.”
Unger also participated in a town hall alongside Banner Health Western Region to connect with community members from Northern Colorado.
Both hospital systems are seeing a challenge they didn't encounter in the first wave of the pandemic - staffing shortages.
"This time, beds isn't the issue," said Margo Karsten, President of Banner Health Western Region. "It's the labor."
Hospital systems are trying new strategies to stretch resources, such as utilizing team nursing.
"So we are trying to get new models of team nursing, having others do the vitals while our critical care staff focus on the job at hand," Unger said. "We are looking at ways to stretch people a little bit further so that we can continue to take care of the high volume of patients that we continue seeing.”
Hospitals are also reporting their emergency rooms are overwhelmed and holding patients that would normally have a bed elsewhere.
Karsten said Banner Health has also made requests for aid with FEMA.
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