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Smaller southern Colorado hospitals prep for COVID-19 outbreaks

Trinidad hospital

COVID-19 case numbers might be lower in smaller communities like Huerfano and Las Animas Counties for the time being. Yet hospitals in rural areas across southern Colorado are gearing up for their own surge in the disease.

Mt. San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad is currently applying social distancing policies to their own facilities, screening visitors, limiting visitors and initiating telemedicine visits in the community.

And near Walsenburg, Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center is doing much of the same. Health officials at the facility say they're also getting spaces ready in case of an overflow of patients.

Unfortunately, hospitals in smaller areas are running into the same problems in bigger cities. They have a limited number of supplies and resources.

“We are as ready as we can possibly be,” said Debbie Channel with Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center when asked if the hospital is ready for a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Huerfano County has only recorded one confirmed case of the disease so far. However, health officials in the county tell KRDO the average age of the area is 54 years old. That puts the entire county at a risk stage for the virus.

“We do not have enough ventilators. We do not have enough test kits," said Channel. "We started with 47 kits, which is nothing much. We still have 40. So we are being very frugal.”

In Las Animas county, there are zero confirmed cases of the virus so far. However, Mt. San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad faces a similar dilemma.

“We have adequate Personal Protective Equipment day to day, but sources are dwindling in getting access to that for the future," said Mt. San Rafael's Chief Nursing Officer Mandy Shaiffer. "We are trying to be as responsible as possible.”

Staff at the five star rated hospital in Trinidad understand the need for gear is greater farther north, where the pandemic's impact has been more significant.

In the mean time, health officials in Las Animas and Huerfano counties say the best way to help these hospitals conserve supplies would be to stay home.

“The right decisions are being made for the safety and welfare of our communities," said Mt. San Rafael's Director of Planning and Development Kim Lucero. "If people just follow the Governor's orders, and follow what they are supposed to be doing in the communities that they live in, we will all be safe moving forward."

Neither hospital in Walsenburg nor Trinidad has a fully operating ICU. Like with any illness or injury, if the symptoms of COVID-19 are bad enough, the patient would be transferred to hospitals in Pueblo or Colorado Springs.

Both hospitals urge people who may be showing signs of COVID-19 not to drop into the hospital unannounced. Call your health care provider or the hospital before arriving at the emergency room.

Coronavirus / Health / Health / Local News / State & Regional News

Dan Beedie

Dan is a bureau reporter based out of Pueblo. Learn more about Dan here.