Colorado hospitals reactivate transfer center as delta variant drives hospitalizations

The Colorado Hospital Association reactivated the state’s Combined Hospital Transfer Center on Friday, saying that some facilities in the state are concerned about bed and staffing capacity as the delta variant has fueled a “significant increase” in COVID-19 patients.

The center, which was deactivated in February, will help hospitals if they are full and need to transfer patients to other facilities in the state, according to the hospital association.

“We really are starting to pull the various levers to address capacity,” said Cara Welch, spokeswoman for the Colorado Hospital Association.

The transfer center was first used last November when COVID-19 hospitalizations began to increase at a rate not previously seen in Colorado, peaking at 1,995 patients on Dec. 2.

Under ordinary circumstances, if a hospital doesn’t have a bed for a patient or can’t provide the level of care that a person needs, staff will call other hospitals until they find a placement. Now, hospital systems are essentially volunteering their staff who specialize in transfers to help coordinate where patients will go, Welch said.

Small hospitals will have one number to call for help, and large hospitals will be able to send less-severely ill patients to recover elsewhere if they need to free up beds for those who need intensive care, she said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are still well below the levels seen last winter, but they are at their third-highest point since the pandemic began. Since no one knows how long the current wave may last, it makes sense to start taking steps now, Welch said.

As of Thursday, 788 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 across Colorado and 85% of the state’s intensive-care beds were in use, according to data from the health department.

If Colorado experienced a surge worse than last winter’s, the hospital systems could take turns managing transfers to further increase coordination, Welch said.

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