COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- More than 30% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in El Paso County since the pandemic began happened in November, county public health data shows.
A total of 339 people were admitted to EPC hospitals in the last 23 days. County data shows 57% of the patients are 60 years of age or older.
According to the EPC public health, the local hospital system is strained, and hospitals are using surge capacities, limiting surgeries, and are facing resource constraints.
"Clearly they are going up at an exponential rate," Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said.
Mayor Suthers said he is briefed daily on the hospital numbers but is unsure as to what the threshold for local hospitals is before they are too overwhelmed to accept patients.
"I know their burden is getting heavier and heavier. I know they are worried about it. I don't know the exact point at which they say, 'Oh my God,' we're going to have to start turning away other sick people to start taking care of COVID people."
El Paso County Commission Chairman Mark Waller said he would like to see EPC hospitals sharing more information with the public.
"I think the hospitals need to be responsible to share that information with the public. I think it's crucially important. You know it's not just about the number of cases that we have. In fact, I'd argue that's it's not really about that at all," Waller said. "It should be about the number of people that are in hospitals. Are we starting to overwhelm the hospital system? Are we seeing deaths go up as a result of the hospital system being overwhelmed? I think nobody can share that message better than the hospitals. And quite frankly, I wish they'd do a better job of it."
Both UCHealth and Penrose St. Francis said they report COVID-19 hospitalization data to the El Paso County Public Health department everyday.
Peter D. Banko, CEO of Centura Health, which owns Penrose St. Francis released this statement to KRDO.
"The pandemic’s public health and economic impact on individuals, families, businesses, and our communities has been unprecedented. It is not our intent to further disrupt health, well-being, or economic development. We made and kept our commitment since March to put our caregivers first, be transparent in our reporting to help inform public health decision making, and be strong public advocates for strong public health measures. ICU capacity – which frequently changes day to day or even multiple times a day – is just one of the metrics we report twice daily. That number alone – absent other important measures – does not provide a reliable or even a meaningful view of our capabilities. We remain confident in Centura’s Penrose and St. Francis hospitals’ physicians’ and associates’ ability to continue to care for all patients – especially right now when you need us most."
UCHealth released this statement to 13 Investigates on Tuesday.
"All hospitals in the county share hospitalization and COVID-related data every day with El Paso County Public Health. That data is aggregated, trended and reported daily on the health department website to ensure the public is fully aware. The data has been showing a rise in hospitalizations since early October, a lagging indicator of community spread (incidence).
Today, UCHealth is caring for about 110 people with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 infections at its hospitals in the Pikes Peak region.
As you know, UCHealth has implemented surge plans - which includes expanding units and delaying some non-emergency surgeries - to accommodate a growing number of patients."
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)says its plan for addressing potential staffing shortages is based on daily briefings from the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) and local public health leaders. CDPHE said so far; no healthcare facilities have requested assistance relating to capacity or staffing concerns amid the pandemic.
Here's CDPHE's five-step plan to support healthcare systems if they become too overwhelmed:
- Use CHA’s Colorado Hospital Transfer Collaborative to move patients from facilities with high density to sites with a lower density.
- Activate the Inter-Agency Interfacility Transport Center to bring in support from healthcare facilities as well as emergency medical system providers.
- Coordinate through the State Staffing Shortage Fusion Center to support short-term staffing requested due directly to COVID-19.
- Activate State EOC medical staffing contracts to supplement staffing within hospitals and healthcare facilities.
- Activate alternative care sites.
State health leaders noted that they hope they never get to the point where they have to activate the alternative care sites. There are three of them in the state, including including St. Mary Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo.