Garfield County hospitals seeing more COVID patient transfers from outside the county, limiting bed availability
Garfield County’s two hospitals have seen an increase in new COVID-19 patients over the past week, but many of those patients are coming from outside the county.
On Nov. 3, the Colorado Hospital Association moved the state’s hospitals and health systems to the highest level of activation, increasing the number of patient transfers between hospitals to help manage hospital capacity statewide, a Garfield County news release states.
As a result, Western Slope hospitals are feeling the strain from a statewide system that’s reaching a crisis level in terms of bed capacity.
“Unfortunately, we are finding ourselves in the same situation as many Front Range hospitals regarding bed availability and hospital capacity,” Dr. Kevin Coleman, chief medical officer at Grand River Health in Rifle, said in the release.
“We are partnering with all of our neighboring hospitals and working on how to best serve our communities and patients,” he said. “Our providers have struggled to find timely placement for some individuals when care is needed.”
As of Tuesday, Garfield County Public Health was tracking only four Garfield County residents who were hospitalized.
But both Grand River and Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs have had far more COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the past week.
Valley View reported 12 new hospitalizations since Nov. 2. Likewise, Grand River has seen four new COVID-19 hospitalizations since this time last week.
Area hospitals routinely transfer patients to larger hospital systems when a higher level of care is needed. But, with near crisis-level bed capacities across the state, patients with less-severe symptoms are now being transferred in, Coleman said.
It’s the first time since the pandemic began that patients are being transferred into the Rifle hospital from areas outside of the county, he said.
Meanwhile, Garfield County Public Health has been informed that in some cases patients with life-threatening conditions are waiting up to a full day to be seen or transferred to a facility that can provide the level of care needed, according to the release.
Within Garfield County, the number of new deaths among county residents has increased by eight over the past five weeks.
Daily COVID-19 cases have also grown from 11 on Sept. 2 to 30 on Nov. 2. And, the latest seven-day total was 136 new cases.
“Hospital capacity strains aren’t just affecting the Front Range,” Garfield County Public Health Nurse Sara Brainard said in the release. “The issue is here on the Western Slope, too.”
Colorado’s hospitalizations are at the highest levels they have been all year, prompting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help with capacity issues in some parts of the state.
Garfield County Public health has also updated its guidance around what to do if people feel sick.
“It’s never a good time to get sick,” Brainard said. “So we all must do what we can to avoid the spread of germs and viruses. Do what you can to keep yourself out of the health care system: wash your hands, consider wearing a mask in crowded areas, and stay home if you feel ill.”
County residents are also still strongly urged to get the COVID-19 vaccination or the booster for those who are six months out from their last dose. Seasonal flu shots are also strongly advised, she said.
“This will help ease the health care burden and keep space available for unpreventable emergencies,” Brainard said.
In addition to boosters, Pfizer for ages 5 to 11, and first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses, are now available at Garfield County Public Health COVID clinics.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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