COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Colorado lawmakers are working to create a new Health Care Services Reserve Corps with the goal of having a dedicated group of medical professionals trained to step in and help when hospitals experience a spike in admissions.
House Bill 21-1005 is co-sponsored by State Representatives Yadira Caraveo, a pediatrician, and Kyle Mullica, an ER nurse. Caraveo explained that when the legislature adjourned last March during the initial wave of Coronavirus infections, she returned to her clinic. While she treated a few patients for COVID-19, the virus did not overwhelm the pediatric system.
"There was even some guilt on my part that I couldn't jump in and go and help out at an ICU or an emergency room because I hadn't taken care of an adult patient in years, right, since medical school," she said.
Caraveo said she had many conversations with Rep. Mullica about how to apply some of the lessons learned from this pandemic.
"We kind of started formulating some ideas of how could this be different the next time that something like this happens, whether it's a pandemic or a bad wildfire season, whatever health emergency the state faces in the future," she said.
As virus infections and hospitalizations climbed in October and November, local hospitals put into place emergency plans to reassign staff members to the COVID floor. News 5 anchor Ira Cronin interviewed UC Health Memorial Hospital nurse Patti Loper in November as part of our Your Health Family series. She described her return to the bedside after a few years of administrative work.
"All of a sudden, you get this flip, and you're the novice and these are really, really, really sick patients," Loper said at the time.
If the bill passes, it will stand up a task force that will have 18 months to research all of the logistical challenges of creating the corps. Rep. Caraveo said that panel will submit a report to the legislature in December of 2023 that can be used to draft new legislation during the 2024 session.
"It's the start of a process that I wish had already been in place for this pandemic, but at least we have to learn from this one to prepare for whatever comes next. And that's what we're trying to do."
HB 21-1005 already passed its first committee vote and has since gone to appropriations. If it clears the House, it will be carried in the Senate by Sen. Leroy Garcia of Pueblo who also works as an EMT.