Summit County hospital reporting lower occupancy levels
KEYSTONE — Although Colorado has seen record-breaking daily hospitalizations due to the novel coronavirus in recent weeks, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center is not at a point of concern.
So far in the course of the pandemic, the hospital has not neared its 34-bed capacity, according to Summit County’s coronavirus webpage.
Since March 5, the county has reported 43 hospitalizations among residents. As of late, the hospital has been admitting zero to two patients a day, Dr. Stephen Cobb, Centura’s chief medical officer in Denver, said.
That data also only reflects patients who stay for more than 24 hours and are admitted to St. Anthony’s — not Summit County patients that are admitted to another Centura hospital.
The current capacity extends across the Centura Health system, Cobb said. Patients who are experiencing severe illness as a result of the virus are often transferred down to Centura-owned hospitals in Denver. Cobb said the health system is only using about half of its ventilators at the moment.
“Summit County is not always the ideal place to take care of these patients given the altitude so a lot of those patients, if they need to be on a ventilator, are transferred down,” he said. “Currently, we have good capacity to take care of those patients.”
Good capacity within Summit County’s hospital doesn’t mean there isn’t cause for concern, however. At a Board of Health meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said statewide trends are worrying.
As of Thursday, Nov. 26, 81% of intensive care unit beds across the state were in use, 20% of the beds being used by COVID-19 patients, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s COVID-19 data page.
“We’re in weekly conversations … we’re ramping that up a little bit so we can keep our finger on the pulse in regards to our own hospital system here and how that might be impacted given the state increases going forward,” Wineland said at the meeting.
While the system currently has the ability to treat all COVID-19 patients, that doesn’t mean current restrictions and mitigation strategies aren’t warranted, Cobb said.
“It’s a math problem,” he said. “While we’re doing well right now, there’s certainly the ability mathematically to overwhelm the health care system in Colorado.”
In addition to the rising cases, Centura hospitals are dealing with a national nurse shortage. Now that the pandemic is raging across the country, nurses aren’t able to go to other areas to help with relief efforts, Cobb said.
“All across the country we’re seeing the same level of pandemic activities, so there is no having nurses travel from New York to Colorado, or back and forth,” he said. “We’re all being hit the same, so our national nurse shortage is really evident right now during this phase of the pandemic.”
Cobb added that people in Summit County should be wary of hospitals filling up in other parts of the state, whether they have the virus or not.
“The capacity of hospitals in Denver to take care of patients certainly affects all sorts of patients that need medical care in Summit County, whether its for COVID-19, a heart condition or some other chronic lung condition that becomes worse, all of the needs for care is affected by our hospital capacity,” he said.
Wineland added that an additional stressor on St. Anthony Summit Medical Center is an increase in trauma patients during the ski season.
“Our hospital is starting to see an increase in trauma patients now that the ski resorts are open,” she said. “(We’re) trying to watch that really closely to see if that’s impacting our ability to also care for everybody that needs that level of medical care — both COVID and non-COVID.”
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