COVID patients overwhelm hospitals in Colorado yet again : Shots

Longmont United Hospital nurse Brooke Schroeder holds a sign supporting nurses December 2, 2021. Nurses say the hospital is severely understaffed and they’re trying to form a union.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News


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Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Longmont United Hospital nurse Brooke Schroeder holds a sign supporting nurses December 2, 2021. Nurses say the hospital is severely understaffed and they’re trying to form a union.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Harold Burch lives in a home with a spectacular view in Paonia, a rural part of Colorado’s Western Slope. But that’s been little consolation to Burch, 60, as he’s battled a cascade of health problems during the pandemic.

“It’s been a real rodeo,” Burch says. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs and lately it’s been mostly just downers.”

Burch has battled chronic osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and had two major intestinal surgeries. One specialist he was seeing left her practice last year. Another wouldn’t accept his insurance. Then, Nov. 1, he started experiencing major stomach pain.

“When we talk terrible problems, I can’t leave the house,” he says. He says he hasn’t eaten anything substantial in three weeks.

Burch had to wait that long to be seen by a primary care doctor. He says the doctor told him: “‘If things were different, I would tell you to go to the hospital and be diagnosed, have some tests run and see what’s going on with you.’ But he says, ‘as of today, Delta County hospital is clear full. There are no beds available.'”

The COVID variant delta has overwhelmed the Colorado county of the same name. Hospitals on the Western Slope have been slammed for weeks, and the statewide picture is similarly grim. As of Monday, 1,294 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the state’s coronavirus website. Half of the state’s hospitals said they anticipated a staffing shortage in mid-December; more than a third of them anticipated ICU bed shortages at the same time.

And behind those numbers, patients — and health care workers — are feeling the impact.

Burch’s doctor told him he might have to wait hours in the ER, perhaps with people who have flu or COVID-19 symptoms. So Burch stayed home.

He’s fully vaccinated. But just 57% of people in Delta County have at least one dose of vaccine. And 84% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Colorado are not vaccinated.

“It’s really

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More than 10,000 patients caught Covid-19 in a hospital, analysis shows. They never made it out

They left with covid-19 — if they left at all.

More than 10,000 patients were diagnosed with covid in a U.S. hospital last year after they were admitted for something else, according to federal and state records analyzed exclusively for KHN. The number is certainly an undercount, since it includes mostly patients 65 and older, plus California and Florida patients of all ages.

Yet in the scheme of things that can go wrong in a hospital, it is catastrophic: About 21% of the patients who contracted covid in the hospital from April to September last year died, the data shows. In contrast, nearly 8% of other Medicare patients died in the hospital at the time.

Steven Johnson, 66, was expecting to get an infection cut out of his hip flesh and bone at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, Florida, last November. The retired pharmacist had survived colon cancer and was meticulous to avoid contracting covid. He could not have known that, from April through September, 8% of that hospital’s Medicare covid patients were diagnosed with the virus after they were admitted for another concern.

Johnson had tested negative for covid two days before he was admitted. After 13 days in the hospital, he tested positive, said his wife, Cindy Johnson, also a retired pharmacist.

Soon he was struggling to clear a glue-like phlegm from his lungs. A medical team could hardly control his pain. They prompted Cindy to share his final wishes. She asked: “Honey, do you want to be intubated?” He responded with an emphatic “no.” He died three days later.

After her husband tested positive, Cindy Johnson, trained in contact tracing, quickly got a covid test. She tested negative. Then she thought about the large number of hospital staffers flowing into and out of his room — where he was often unmasked — and suspected a staff member had infected him. That the hospital, part of the HCA Healthcare chain, still has not mandated staff vaccinations is “appalling,” she said.

“I’m furious,” she said.

“How can they say on their website,” she asked, “that the safety precautions ‘we’ve put into place make our facilities among the safest possible places to receive healthcare at this time’?”

Blake Medical Center spokesperson Lisa Kirkland said the hospital is “strongly encouraging vaccination” and noted that it follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and federal and state guidelines to protect patients. President
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Transgender patients find health care on Rutgers student’s app

Imagine checking in for an appointment with your primary care doctor, and you notice your forms show the wrong gender marker. You might feel confused, hurt, question how well your doctor knows you or how to offer you proper care. 

Transgender, nonbinary and other gender diverse people fear instances like this when they seek health care, like a nurse calling their wrong name or receiving incorrect treatment because of their outdated gender marker. Finding providers who know how to treat non-cisgender people would be ideal, but that’s not a simple feat.

Typing key words for transgender-affirming care in a search engine calls up LGBTQ-specific providers. It’s more difficult to find everyday health care services, like dentists or primary care doctors, who respect and understand gender diverse patients.

Creators behind an upcoming app, TranZap, want to make that search simpler for gender diverse people seeking care. 

Gender-affirming providers are not only doctors who perform plastic surgeries or administer hormone replacement therapy. They’re doctors, nurses, front desk staff and everyone in a medical office who know how to respectfully care for gender diverse patients. 

Some resources exist that help transgender people find plastic surgeons or endocrinologists who affirm people’s gender physically. Taylor Chiang, a second year student at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School who came up with TranZap, wants people to find “gender-affirming [providers] to get regular old routine care.”

“A big barrier to health care is being afraid that you’re going to be discriminated against or not knowing information,” Chiang said. “Whether or not a primary care provider is gender-affirming, that information is lacking.”

Transgender people face a high risk of physical and mental health problems, but are “consistently and systemically underserved by the American medical system,” a Center for American Progress report reads. Some 62% of transgender respondents said they worried about being judged based on their sexual orientation or gender identity in health care settings, according to TransPop survey results.

Chiang experienced uncomfortable conversations surrounding their identity in health care settings before. They typically searched for providers who accepted their insurance, or heard about affirming providers via word of mouth. Sometimes, they “risked” the provider lacking knowledge about caring for and talking to transgender and gay patients. 

They had connections to transgender people seeking similar care, but they wondered about gender diverse people who didn’t have that community, who struggled to find health care. That

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