COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — A growing number of patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19 are filling hospital beds in Colorado Springs. Dr. David Steinbruner, the medical director of UCHealth Memorial Hospital told reporters Thursday that his hospital is extremely full.
"There was one day our census was like 111%," Steinbruner said.
For comparison sake, he said the hospital typically operates at around 80% of its bed capacity.
Admissions of new COVID patients this week are well above levels previously set in March and April when the virus was first identified in the community. At that time, the governor ordered hospitals and outpatient surgery providers to stop all elective and non-essential surgeries.
It freed up more beds and personnel to care for COVID patients. However, Steinbruner said that order also led to negative impacts on people's health.
"One of the things we saw early on in the pandemic in the spring was people were afraid to come to the emergency department," he explained. "As a result, heart attacks happened that they missed, people ended up having ruptured appendicitis, people ended up having diseases that progressed to a point where it's much harder to treat."
They have since been working to accommodate all of the health needs of the people in Colorado Springs, from trauma and cancer patients to the growing number of COVID patients.
"We're going to have to think hard about how we can decrease the flood of COVID patients coming into our hospital, and the only way that we can do that is to stop the transmission rate broadly," Steinbruner said.
The hospital has a surge plan in place where they can reassign staff and facilities to add extra beds. Making such a move could result in asking some patients to defer their care.
"Remember, it's not just today but I have to think about what's about to come through the door and I look at how many people are sitting in the emergency department and then anticipate what tomorrow looks like," he said.
The hospital is fully stocked with personal protective equipment and the hospital staff remains healthy. Steinbruner worries that with so much community spread of the virus, his staff has a higher risk for exposure when they leave work.
"One of the reasons we're asking people to put on the mask, socially distance, and take this to heart is that we need to protect our workforce so that we can take care of you," he said.
The hospital recently changed its visitor's policy to reduce potential exposure to other patients and staff. Previously, patients were allowed a maximum of two visitors, but that's since been lower to one. Families are encouraged to contact the hospital before coming to visit to know what to expect.