FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A group of health care professionals is thanking the Department of Defense team that came to Colorado this month to help the state with its hospital capacity challenges as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.
The team is one of a few in Colorado after Gov. Jared Polis and the state requested federal help and was made possible through the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
“COVID has been going on now for about 20 months and there’s been... it’s been hard. It’s been hard on our staff, challenging for our communities,” said Ryan Rohman, Poudre Valley Hospital's chief operating officer. “I want to say thank you to the state of Colorado in helping us access FEMA.”
Another team is working at a hospital in Pueblo at Parkview Medical Center and a third is at the UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland helping with monoclonal antibody treatments.
Roughly 20 personnel are working in the intensive care unit of the Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. The team includes nurses, providers, respiratory therapists and administrators.
The team is working side by side with health care workers and helping to free up hospital staff so that they can continue to provide other types of medical care for patients.
Over the past four months, the hospital has had to reduce its non-COVID-19 related medical procedures significantly to accommodate the staffing and capacity challenges.
As of Thursday morning, UCHealth is caring for 373 COVID-19 patients across the state, including 100 at facilities in northern Colorado like Poudre Valley. That’s the highest number the health system has seen all year.
Approximately 140 of those patients are in the ICU. Rohman says about 85% of the patients they are caring for are unvaccinated. That number bumps up to 95% of the COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit.
“I would say our light at the end of the tunnel is a little dimmer than what it was in the past,” Rohman said. “It’s a scenario that I never thought I would be in as a hospital administrator that I would be seeking help from the Department of Defense.”
During a Thanksgiving Day press conference, hospital staff expressed their gratitude for the team and described the team’s integration.
A registered nurse at the hospital said during the press conference the DoD team has provided much needed relief to the overworked hospital staff
“The fact that they can come in and just get in there and take patients really lets our nurses have somewhat of a break,” Megan Tschacher said. “We can kind of breathe a little.”
U.S. Air Force First Lieutenant Anthony Albina, a critical care nurse from the DOD’s medical response unit, described the integration as seamless, saying his team is ready to help wherever needed and stay for as long as necessary.
“I speak for the whole team that we want to help. That’s what we’re here for, and that’s why a lot of us got in in the first place,” Albina said.
He is stationed at Andrews Air Force Base and has traveled to other areas of the country to help out prior to Colorado.
“It has been an absolute honor to be here and to be asked to come here and to help out in this capacity,” he said.
The team is expected to remain in Colorado for at least a month. However, Rohman said their ultimate exit will depend on hospital capacity and overall needs. Poudre Valley Hospital has lost staff over the course of the pandemic, which has posed an additional challenge to the facility. It is currently working on hiring more people.
As the hospital expresses its gratitude, Rohman and the medical staff are asking the community to celebrate the holidays responsibly so that the hospitals don’t suffer even more in the weeks that follow.
“We’re pretty anxious about the holidays with all the family gatherings that are going to be occurring during Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s,” he said.