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Colorado group representing emergency doctors asks Polis for help managing COVID-19 surge

Colorado ACEP
Posted at 4:26 PM, Jan 17, 2022

DENVER — A group representing more than 700 medical professionals in Colorado is asking for the governor's help as the omicron variant spreads throughout the state.

The leaders of the Colorado chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians say emergency departments are trying to deal with an influx of COVID-19 patients, but they lack the staffing and resources to do so.

"Right now, I think we're in a very difficult time," said Dr. Ramnik Dhaliwal, the group's president. "We're seeing more patients than we have been for pretty much the whole COVID pandemic, and at the same time, we're also short-staffed with nurses."

Knowing it's only going to get worse before it gets better, Dr. Dhaliwal and his team met with a representative from Gov. Jared Polis' office last week.

A letter the group provided to the governor's team, which was shared with Denver7, details the group's requests, from increasing access to rapid tests to bringing in nurses from FEMA and the National Guard. They are also asking the state to activate crisis standards of care.

"Our healthcare system is in a strain point, and it's not going to change in the near future," said Dr. Dhaliwal.

The group says more patients and not enough nurses due to illness, leaving the profession or seeking better-paying opportunities as travel nurses is taking a toll on the system and may affect the care patients receive.

"You end up seeing patients in non-normal settings, which would be triage or the waiting room," Dr. Dhaliwal said.

A little more than a week ago, some of UCHealth's emergency departments began screening patients as a way of determining who needs immediate help and who can come back some other time.

"We are certainly experiencing a supply-and-demand mismatch, which is the definition of a crisis," UCHealth Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Richard Zane said.

The temporary change, he says, makes room to take care of those who are sickest.

"Twisted ankle or a sprained thumb, or a rash … those are things that very predictably do not require emergent care. They may require urgent care or primary care, but not emergent care," Dr. Zane said.

Dr. Dhaliwal says he hasn't heard from Polis' office after last week's meeting. Regardless of the situation, he wants to make sure people continue to seek the care they need.

"If you have a life-threatening medical issue or an issue that you're concerned about, you know, we are here for you at the emergency department," Dr. Dhaliwal said.

Denver7 reached out to the governor's office Monday afternoon for comment on this story but has not yet received a response.