Colorado hospitals need more protective equipment to combat surge in coronavirus patients

Posted at 5:28 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 22:27:58-04

DENVER — Colorado hospitals said emergency room staff are beginning to see a surge in patients with respiratory-related illness as the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise.

"We're starting to see some of that initial surge, especially in those two areas of hot spots," said Julie Lonborg with the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) that represents more than 100 hospitals statewide. "Our hospitals in the last 24 hours, a couple of them, have seen a pretty good influx of patients that need to be hospitalized with respiratory circumstances."

The two hot spot areas which are starting to see an influx of patients are in Denver and up in the High Country.

Lonborg said most hospitals are not yet at capacity but need more supplies and personal protective equipment or PPE.

"In our world what that means is gloves, gowns, masks, and googles," she said. "It's important that we get these things, and we get those things replenished. Right now, we do have what we need," she said.

Lonborg said Colorado had placed a formal request with the federal government for more protective equipment and supplies to be sent from the federal reserve.

In rural Colorado, Elizabeth Fire Chief TJ Steck said his department has a tough time finding it.

"There's a shortage all over the place," said Steck.

Meanwhile, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock described a critical shortage of personal protective equipment during a news briefing Monday.

"If we don't get PPE equipment into the city of Denver this week and we're talking about in a matter of days, all of our efforts will come to a screeching halt," said Hancock.

Lonborg said Colorado hospitals are doing an inventory of critical care beds and working on expanding negative pressure isolation rooms, which can keep the virus out of the air.

"Do we use our high school gymnasiums? Certainly, those are in our thoughts and hope we don't get to that point," she said.

She said hospitals are preparing for the worse and hoping Colorado's effort to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus through social distancing works.

"So that the healthcare system can keep up," said Lonborg.

CHA also said some hospitals are starting to postpone elective surgeries and are moving to limit or restrict hospital visitations as they begin seeing more patients with the virus.

"This signals a move from the stage that was called mitigation, and we're moving into a stage where we're preparing for surge," Lonborg said.

Hospitals are asking the public not to come to the emergency room if they are experiencing minor symptoms and instead go through their primary care provider.

CHA has also asked the state to prioritize COVID-19 testing for healthcare workers.

"We need testing reserved for our staff so that we know when we need to remove a staff member from the workforce," said Lonborg.