ICU bed shortage in Colorado forcing hospitals to find more space

AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Colorado’s ICU bed capacity has hovered around 94% for more than a week, pushing past the past peak of the pandemic.

Intensive care units at some individual hospitals are beyond that point. UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital had patients in all 148 ICU beds as of Thursday.

Dr. Jean Kutner, chief medical officer, said the situation is impacting patient care.

“We do have more patients that we’re needing to double up on space. We’re having patients where we’re sort of regularly moving them around the hospital to make sure if a patient needs basic care, then they’re in a basic care bed,” Kutner said.

Kutner said patients may also have to wait in other areas, like the emergency department, for ICU beds to open in other places.

This is not the first time their hospital has been strained during the pandemic. Kutner said the meaningful difference now is the arrival of non-COVID patients.

University of Colorado Hospital converted a different unit to adjust to approximately 30-40 more ICU patients. Kutner said they can keep adding beds to the space obtainable, but at some point, they won’t have the staff to care for those patients.

Crisis standards actived for Colorado hospitals

The state recently enacted Crisis Standards of Care for hospitals in response to the staffing shortage and rising hospitalizations. Kutner said that allows staff to focus more on the basic parts of patient care and less on administrative work.

She said in some situations, they have to move patients to thoroughly different regions of the state where beds are obtainable.

“We end up taking care of patients sometimes pretty far from where their family is, where they live, because in order to get them a hospital bed, we need to move them somewhere else in the state where there is an open bed,” Kutner said.

According to numbers from the Colorado Department of Public Health and ecosystem, the “Mile High” vicinity currently has a 5% ICU bed availability, similar to other regions along the Front Range. Southwest Colorado has the highest availability, around 20%.

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