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COVID-19 Emergency Order Gives Hospitals Okay Not to Admit Patients

The adult ambulance entrance at Denver Health.
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Earlier today, we published a post noting that data on COVID-19 from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed a hospitalization crisis growing closer.

Hours later, another indication of the looming challenge arrived, by way of an announcement from Governor Jared Polis's office about a just-signed executive order authorizing the CDPHE "to order hospitals and freestanding emergency departments to transfer or cease the admission of patients in order to allow them to respond to the surging number of COVID-19 cases."

This directive relates to the possibility of hospitals exceeding their capacity because of an overwhelming influx of COVID-19 cases — something that happened on November 16 at Parkview Hospital in Pueblo, when more than 100 patients exhibiting symptoms of the disease were admitted. According to the governor's office, multiple patients had to be transferred to other facilities as a result of the rush.

The problem has only grown more serious since then. Department statistics updated at 4 p.m. November 22 showed that 35 percent of the hospitals in Colorado are anticipating staff shortages in the next week, and 11 percent expect they'll suffer from ICU bed shortages.

These prospects prompted the executive order, which states in part that the CDPHE "may direct the hospital or freestanding emergency department to cease admitting patients and to direct any persons thereafter seeking treatment to another hospital or facility designated by CDPHE" and "may direct the transfer of patients from the hospital or freestanding emergency department to another hospital, skilled nursing facility, dormitory, alternative care facility or other facility designated by CDPHE."

This process can be undertaken "without first obtaining the patient's written or informed consent to such a transfer," the order continues. Moreover, the CDPHE has the power to "direct a hospital, skilled nursing facility or other facility to accept patients transferred from a hospital or freestanding emergency department pursuant to this Executive Order."

In addition, Polis is directing the CDPHE and the state's Division of Insurance "to work with carriers, hospitals, freestanding emergency departments, other facilities and any entity that has transferred or received patients pursuant to this Executive Order to develop methods of identifying patients transferred or received pursuant to this Executive Order in order to ensure that those patients are protected by the consumer protections set forth in...this Executive Order. If necessary, CDPHE may direct carriers, hospitals, freestanding emergency departments, facilities, transporting entities, and any other entity that has transferred or received patients pursuant to this Executive Order to take certain actions to ensure that CDPHE is able to identify those patients."

The order's language indicates just how much strain Colorado's hospital system is under right now — and how much worse officials fear the situation may get.

Click to read the governor's hospital transfer executive order.

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