PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, a Colorado hospital is receiving aid from the federal government in treating COVID-19 patients. Monday, Parkview Medical Center began training 15 healthcare workers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The state requested medical staffing assistance through FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). The request for aid was a direct response to worsening hospital capacities and a low vaccination rate in Pueblo County. Currently, Parkview is treating 94 COVID-19 patients.
"The circumstances are bad. We are experiencing this because we are twenty percent less vaccinated than the state of Colorado, so it's no surprise to us that our increase in cases are continuing here in pueblo," Rachael Morris, Parkview Communications Specialist said.
A letter sent to employees at Parkview and obtained by KRDO outlines that their hospital levels are near capacity:
With the additional staff through FEMA's help, Parkview will be able to add 18 COVID beds and open an additional floor for COVID care.
"We have physicians coming, mid-level high advanced practitioners, respiratory therapists, support personal, etc," Morris said.
Last week, Parkview officials said they terminated 56 workers because of the vaccine mandate. Officials say the terminations affected multiple departments.
"We lost 56 employees that were across multiple departments, so it's not like we lost 56 intensive care units nurses. We will have this month an influx of traveling staff come in, traveling nurses specifically. We suspect that will help our surge as well," Morris said.
In a Health Advisory last week, the Pueblo Department of Health and Environment said hospitals may have to resort to crisis standards of care in the coming months if COVID hospitalizations don't decline soon. Morris told KRDO the county wasn't there yet.
"What we are seeing is a mirror to last year of 2020 which is unfortunate. We are not there yet thankfully and so we trust our physicians and our senior leadership to work through those models," she said.
Tuesday afternoon the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reactivated crisis standards of care for staffing of health care systems throughout the state. According to the state, the reactivation allows hospitals to "implement staffing solutions to best meet the increasing medical needs for their communities."
The healthcare workers from FEMA will assist Parkview for 14 days. However, that could be extend the 28 days if the hospital still needs the additional staffing.