Hospital thanks federal medical teams helping with COVID-19

FORT COLLINS, Colorado — A group of health care professionals thanks the Department of Defense team that came to Colorado this month to help the state with its hospital capacity challenges as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.

The team is one of the few in Colorado after Governor Jared Polis and the state requested federal assistance and was made possible by the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

“COVID has been going on for about 20 months now and there has been… it’s been difficult. It’s been tough on our staff and a challenge for our communities,” said Ryan Rohman, Chief Operating Officer of Poudre Valley Hospital. “I want to thank the State of Colorado for helping us gain entry into FEMA.”

Another team works in a Pueblo hospital at Parkview Medical Center, and a third team is at UCHealth Rockies Medical Center in Loveland, assisting with monoclonal antibody treatments.

About 20 staff members work in the intensive care unit at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins. The team consists of nurses, caregivers, respiratory therapists and administrators.

The team works side by side with health professionals and helps free up hospital staff so they can continue to provide other types of medical care to patients.

In the past four months, the hospital has had to significantly reduce its non-COVID-19 related medical procedures to meet staffing and capacity challenges.

As of Thursday morning, UCHealth is caring for 373 COVID-19 patients statewide, including 100 in northern Colorado facilities such as Poudre Valley. That’s the highest number the health system has seen all year.

About 140 of those patients are in the ICU. Rohman says about 85% of the patients they care for are unvaccinated. That number puts up to 95% of COVID-19 patients in intensive care.

“I’d say our light at the end of the tunnel is a little fainter than in the past,” Rohman said. “It’s a scenario that I never thought I would be in as a hospital administrator, that I would seek help from the Department of Defense.”

At a Thanksgiving Day press conference, hospital workers expressed their gratitude for the team and described the team’s integration.

A licensed nurse at the hospital said at the press conference that the DoD team has given overworked hospital staff much-needed relief

“The fact that they can come in and just go in and take patients in really gives our nurses a break,” said Megan Tschacher. “We can breathe a little.”

U.S. Air Force First Lieutenant Anthony Albina, an intensive care nurse with the DOD’s medical response unit, described the integration as seamless and said his team is ready to assist where needed and stay as long as needed.

“I speak on behalf of the entire team we want to help. That’s what we’re here for, and that’s why many of us came in in the first place,” Albina said.

He is stationed at Andrews Air Force Base and has traveled to other parts of the country prior to Colorado to assist.

“It was an absolute honor to be here and to be asked to come here to help in this capacity,” he said.

The team is expected to stay in Colorado for at least a month. However, Rohman said their eventual departure will depend on hospital capacity and general needs. Poudre Valley Hospital has lost staff in the course of the pandemic, which has been an additional challenge for the facility. We are currently working on hiring more people.

As the hospital expresses its gratitude, Rohman and the medical staff ask the community to celebrate the holiday responsibly so that hospitals don’t suffer more in the coming weeks.

“We are quite concerned about the holiday season with all the family gatherings that will take place over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years,” he said.


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