Boulder, Colo., Hospitals Mobilize to Meet Coronavirus Demands

“This has been on our mind since at least 2003,” said Stephen Cobb, VP for Centura Health’s Denver Metro Group, who is helping to manage the response at Longmont United Hospital and Louisville’s Avista Adventist Hospital.

by John Spina, Daily Times-Call, Longmont, Colo. / March 18, 2020
The food court stands almost empty at an outlet mall Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, Colo. Many stores were closed because of the coronavirus outbreak and, as a result, customers were in scarce supply in the mall. AP

(TNS) -- Weeks before the coronavirus reached the U.S., hospitals throughout the state began to institute infectious disease protocols that most started preparing after the SARS outbreak in 2003.

With no end in sight to the outbreak, local medical providers said these preparations allowed them to rapidly shift gears and mobilize resources systemwide to meet increasing demands.

“This has been on our mind since at least 2003,” said Stephen Cobb, vice president and physician executive for Centura Health’s Denver Metro Group, who is helping to manage the response at Longmont United Hospital and Louisville’s Avista Adventist Hospital. “We’ve planned well, and we’ve drilled for this and so far we’ve done a really good job of taking care of our communities. But we need to continue to improve future capacity to make sure that we’re ready for any kind of surge.”

Working in conjunction with all of the hospital systems in the state, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Boulder County Public Health, local hospitals over the past two weeks activated incident command — a way to coordinate a response across agencies and to determine who is in charge of different aspects of the response; instituted requirements for staff to use protective equipment; increased staffing; isolated infected patients in the emergency room; moved other patients to separate areas; limited visitation hours; and set up call lines to help streamline triage.

As the virus continued to spread throughout Colorado, hospitals this week also canceled all elective surgeries, outpatient procedures, and clinic visits to increase the number of the available number of beds, ventilators, and staff in case there is a surge in cases.

“It’s hard to separate the routine flu season and winter respiratory season form COVID, but I think it’s fair to say that we’re seeing roughly a 30% increase in symptoms related to respiratory symptoms or COVID,” Ben Keidan, the vice president and chief medical officer for Boulder Community Health, said. “So there’s a major shift in trying to manage this acute crisis and trying to do telehealth and remote visits for routine stuff and rescheduling other things.”

In doing so, hospitals statewide now have the flexibility to reallocate equipment and staff to those with the most need, depending on where hot spots arise.

“We’re all working really hard to maximize our capacity in the case of a surge and we’re working together as a community,” Cobb said. “It’s a very competitive health care market and even these entitles that fight for market share are working really hard to collaborate … so we have the capacity to take care of our communities and haven’t experienced any meaningful shortages.”

Boulder Community Health will house positive cases, negative cases and those awaiting test results separately, CEO Robert Vissers told the Boulder City Council on Monday night. “This will help preserve equipment and hopefully help protect others in the hospital.”

Additionally, BCH and partners have established a COVID-19 command center, expanded telehealth and nurse triage services, expanded intensive-care capacity and limited visitors to campus.

Should hospital leadership deem it necessary, there are areas — the Della Cava Family Medical Pavilion, for example — within the BCH campus that can be converted away from their current noncritical functions into COVID-19 treatment rooms, Vissers said.

In response to a potential bed shortfall, the hospital could set up triage areas in tents outside or in nearby parking garages.

Mariam Fahs, at right, has her temperature checked by an Avista Adventist Hospital nurse, at the Emergency Room entrance at the Avista Adventist hospital on Tuesday, March 17, in Louisville. The screening of patients, visitors and staff is a precaution for the current coronavirus pandemic. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

While there is still a shortage of certified testing facilities — requiring that hospitals test only those who have high-risk travel exposure, who are severely ill, who have immune compromising diseases or are health care workers — most of the area hospitals are currently working through the certification process and expect to be able to expand testing soon. UCHealth is even considering the use of drive-thru testing facilities.

Before that time, however, officials with all of the local hospitals said it’s important for those not exhibiting severe symptoms to remain home to avoid overloading the system should a surge occur.

“The public shouldn’t be afraid that we’re not capable or ready to do these things,” said Dr. Jamie Teumer, an emergency physician and the medical director of the emergency department at UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital. “Obviously the fear is what we don’t know. We don’t know when this will end. We don’t know when the peak will be, though I expect it to be in a week or two, but we are as prepared as we possibly can be.”

Christina Johnson, the CEO of Longmont United Hospital, reiterated this sentiment, saying she and her staff feel very confident from a medical perspective. She added that the uncertainty coronavirus has caused in people’s financial future and family lives will be a unique challenge for both the general public and medical professionals.

BizWest reporter Lucas High contributed to this report.

———

©2020 the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colo.)

Visit the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colo.) at www.timescall.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Platforms & Programs