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Hospitals prepare contingency plans for virus outbreak

Posted at 11:12 PM, Mar 15, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — As we continue to track the growing number of cases of COVID-19 there are concerns about the ability of local hospitals to treat everyone who would need it should the virus become even more widespread. The Chief Medical Officer at Penrose St Frances Hospital spoke with reporters on Sunday about the issue and plans that local health officials have in place.

"It's something that we're able to tier with a contingency plans to really meet the need in partnership with the rest of the hospitals across Centura as well as our community partners," said Dr. Bill Plauth.

He said patients who've currently scheduled operations or treatments should have no reason fear coming to the hospital.

"I can certainly understand it from an emotional stand point. But with all of our precautions, we keep our patients safe and we would never put patients in harms way."

The El Paso County Department of Public Health and local hospitals have developed a back up plan on how to handle a sudden rush of COVID patients. Those plans include asking people with elective surgeries to postpone them. However, Dr Plauth said we haven't needed to take that step.

The seriousness of hospital capacity was seen recently in Italy where more than 1,800 people have died from the virus. A lack of hospital beds and a shortage of healthcare workers intensified the problem.

On Friday, Governor Jared Polis announced plans to expedite licensing of healthcare workers who live in Colorado and already hold licenses in other states. He also asked retired doctors and nurses to consider returning to help with the outbreak.

"Several people have reached out and are just offering their services," Dr. Plauth said. "I for one am not currently practicing but otherwise would step in to help."

Beginning Monday, Penrose will limit the number of visitors to their hospitals to just one person per patient. Anyone with a cough, fever, or symptoms of a cold or the flu will not be allowed.

All potential COVID-19 patients will be provided personal protective equipment (PPE) upon entering any healthcare facilities. Similarly, all caregivers will wear PPE when providing care to a potential COVID-19 patients. These new rules follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

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Click here for the latest update on the number of cases, the age, gender and location of presumptive positive, indeterminate and confirmed cases from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

People who have general questions about coronavirus disease 2019 can call CO HELP at 303-389-1687 or 1-877-462-2911 for answers in many languages. Email COHELP@RMPDC.org for answers in English.