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Mercy Regional Medical Center ‘busy’ during COVID-19 wave, not at capacity

92% of acute-care beds occupied in Colorado
An N95 mask placed on the “Spirit Mother” statue in front of Mercy Regional Medical Center. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Mercy Regional Medical Center says it remains fully capable of supporting the needs of its patients, despite concerns about hospital bed capacity among some La Plata County residents.

Colorado hospitalizations rose this week to the highest level since December of last year, and 29% of facilities anticipated bed shortages in intensive care units within the next week, according to state data as of Wednesday. Lindsay Radford, spokeswoman for Centura Health, which owns Mercy, said the medical center is “busy,” but providers continue to perform all urgent and emergent surgeries.

“Thanks to our dedicated team of physicians, nurses and support staff, we remain fully capable to support the needs of our community,” Radford said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

Some La Plata County community members, however, remain concerned as the coronavirus continues to spread across the state.

“A fully vaccinated friend of mine with a breakthrough case of COVID went to Mercy for an antibody infusion Friday morning and was told that Mercy is ‘absolutely swamped’ with COVID cases right now,” wrote Durango resident Mary Grizzard in a letter to the editor published Wednesday. “Another friend told me that there were no available beds in ICU because of all the COVID cases.”

As of Wednesday morning, the ICU was not at capacity, Radford said.

The hospital has designated 18 of its 82 beds for intensive care. Radford did not share the number of beds being used on Wednesday, saying the number changes frequently as patients recovering from surgery or experiencing other critical conditions rotate in and out.

“They have not been (at capacity) within the last week, and we have not canceled any emergent or nonemergent procedures for this week,” Radford said.

In Colorado facilities, 93% of ICU beds and 92% of acute care beds were in use as of Wednesday, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That means usage is higher than any other period since April 1, 2020, the earliest date listed on the CDPHE data dashboard.

Mercy leadership meets daily to review the medical center’s inpatient census, bed availability, staffing and supplies, Radford said. On a few rare occasions, the providers have had to reschedule elective surgeries because of limited availability of inpatient beds, she said. Patients were not being rescheduled as of Wednesday.

The volume of COVID-19 positive patients and total hospitalizations is similar to the COVID-19 surge in the winter of 2020, Radford said. The “overwhelming majority” of those patients admitted to the hospital have not received vaccinations.

Across Colorado, 77% of hospitalized patients were unvaccinated as of Wednesday, according to CDPHE.

“Mercy staff from throughout the clinics and hospital work together to support each other’s needs and to ensure we maximize the care we can provide our community,” Radford said.

Amid the current COVID-19 wave, Mercy is also experiencing an active outbreak of cases among staff members. CDPHE reported 44 cases among staff members and no deaths as of Wednesday.

The outbreak was first reported Aug. 17. The CDPHE defines an outbreak as five or more confirmed or positive cases, with at least one positive molecular amplification test or antigen test in a facility or group, within a 14-day period. Therefore, the outbreak at Mercy continues to be tracked and grow week by week until it goes for a two-week period without any new cases.

Mercy encouraged local residents to get vaccinated or a booster, if eligible, and to continue practicing public health precautions, such as wearing a mask when indoors in public and getting tested if symptomatic or exposed to the coronavirus.

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