Denver hospitals haven’t seen coronavirus surge yet, but they’re preparing

So far, the Denver area been spared the crush of patients that has overwhelmed New York hospitals, but hospitals and state officials are talking about ways to prepare for a surge, including sending Denver-area patients who are less seriously ill to rural hospitals that have bed space available.

Kevin Stansbury, CEO of Lincoln Community Hospital, said moving patients to hospitals on the Eastern Plains could “decompress” metro-area hospitals, which typically treat the sickest patients. Critically ill rural patients who need more specialized care would continue to be transferred to Denver, he said.

“That way, they’re receiving great care and not taking up a bed in the city,” he said.

So far, the state has counted 147 people hospitalized from COVID-19 in Colorado, though the number could be higher given almost a week passes between testing and results.

Julie Lonborg, senior vice president of the Colorado Hospital Association, said they’re still working out who would keep track of where beds are available and coordinate patient transfers. They hope to test the plan with a few recovering patients late this week or early next week, she said.

“We’re going to need more resources than any one community has,” she said.

Hospitals in Washington state reported that part of the capacity problem came from difficulty finding a place for patients who no longer needed critical care, but weren’t ready to go home, Lonborg said. Normally those patients could go to a skilled nursing or rehabilitation facility, but those facilities can’t take a patient who had COVID-19 until the patient tests negative, to protect their other residents, she said. Hospitals with extra space are one option for those patients to continue recovering once they’re no longer critically ill.

Free-standing emergency rooms and ambulatory surgical centers also could take some patients, Lonborg said.

“They’re ideally suited, because they have everything a person needs and they’re not busy,” she said.