WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Crisis standards of care ration medical resources during public health emergencies.
- Colorado reactivated the standards due to limited EMS staff and high demand for patient transport.
- Under the standards, only the “most severe” COVID-19 patients will be transported for medical care.
Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, reactivated crisis standards of care for emergency medical services on Friday as hospital resources have become strained under a rapid influx of COVID-19 patients.
“With increasing demands on hospitals and EMS, we need to make sure we can provide care to anyone who needs it immediately. Crisis standards of care help us to do that. We also need every Coloradan over the age of 5+ to get vaccinated so we can lessen the strain on our healthcare system and protect everyone,” CDHE said in a press release.
Crisis standards of care are protocols that guide medical professionals and first responders on how to deliver care during public health emergencies and other disasters in order to save as many lives as possible, according to CDHE.
The department cited EMS staff who have called in sick and high demand for patient transports as reasons for activating crisis standards of care, CDHE said.
Under the new standards, only individuals with the “most severe” cases of COVID-19 should be transported for medical treatment. EMS staff is instructed to refer individuals with less severe cases to an appropriate treatment facility or follow-up service.
Several factors can disqualify individuals with COVID-19 from being transported for emergency medical treatment, including the absence of high-risk medical history, oxygen saturation above 90%, and being under 60 years of age, according to CDHE crisis standards of care.
Patients with less severe cases of COVID-19 are more likely to be given advice on how to care for themselves while quarantining at home or directed to non-emergency medical facilities in order to preserve hospital resources and limit EMS staff’s chances of exposure, according to the crisis standards of care.
Additionally, the standards recommend EMS staff not transport COVID-19 patients who are in continuous cardiac arrest.
While the state has temporarily updated guidance for call centers, dispatch centers, emergency medical service agencies, and first responders, it has not done so for hospitals and acute care facilities, according to a CDHE press release. These standards are only activated for hospitals and acute care facilities when the needs of patients exceed the number of resources available, such as ventilators and intensive care unit beds.