Colorado reactivates crisis standards of care for healthcare staffing

Kelly Gooch -

Colorado reactivated crisis standards of care Nov. 9 for staffing of healthcare systems in the state, which are facing workforce shortages amid the latest COVID-19 surge. 

The crisis standards of care for staffing have been activated because "staff shortages due to COVID-19 illness, increased workloads due to hospitals working at capacity and staff burnout are all making working conditions difficult and often outside the scope of conventional care," according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Crisis standards of care for staffing, which the state previously activated on Jan. 26, give hospitals a framework to use to make staffing decisions during a disaster or public health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the crisis standards of care for staffing, hospitals could take steps such as redirecting staff to assist in strained units, with the oversight of an experienced worker, or activating the Colorado National Guard for nonclinical roles, according to The Denver Post.

Facilities may decide on their own when to engage crisis standards of care based on patient volume and other factors. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the crisis standards of care aim to expand the availability of healthcare workers and healthcare resources to serve patients seeking care for COVID-19 or another health issue. Healthcare systems must notify state officials when they activate and deactivate staffing crisis standards of care.

"We want to be sure Coloradans know they can and should continue to access necessary healthcare. If you're sick and need care, please go get it," Eric France, MD, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a news release. "Activating staffing crisis standards of care allows healthcare systems to maximize the care they can provide in their communities with the staff they have available."

Colorado is activating crisis standards of care for staffing of healthcare systems days after the state issued a statewide public health advisory Nov. 5 amid rising cases of and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in the state. At the time of the advisory, about 40 percent of hospitals reported current or anticipated staff shortages within the next week.

State officials said the crisis standards of care for staffing don't apply to emergency medical services, acute care facilities, out-of-hospital care providers, specialty patient populations or to personal protective equipment.

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