Rural medical facilities prepare for COVID-19 influx

DELTA, Colo. (KJCT) - You've heard a lot about COVID-19 preparations and responses in Grand Junction and Montrose, but what about some of the small towns in between? With talk of a coming wave of COVID-19 patients, we wanted to check in with some rural areas of Colorado and see how they're preparing.

Delta County Memorial Hospital serves the 6 small communities within the county and the farthest somebody would have to drive is about 45 minutes for a hospital. Some rural Colorado communities aren't so lucky. Nucla, for instance, is about two hours from the nearest hospital. Cases of COVID-19 are expected to continue to rise in Colorado and both are preparing to accommodate more patients. Resources are especially finite at these rural medical facilities; they're working to share the burden and might even spread patients around.

"We may use Grand Junction as a center for our ICU care and reach out to smaller hospitals to provide lower acuity care. And certainly we feel equipped to handle some acuity patients but we can't handle the volume," says Dr. Jennifer Craig of Delta County Memorial Hospital.

"With Montrose hospital, we're working to give them as much as we can to allow them to be successful as they can. If I ever need anything from them, all I need to do is call and say we need x, y, z,” says Nic Seaver, Executive Director at Basin Clinic in Nucla.

Data from the Colorado Hospital Association shows that 17 Colorado counties don't have a hospital. Another 20 have hospitals, but no ICU beds. There are currently an estimated 1,849 ICU beds in Colorado. State officials hope to add 1,000 ICU beds by May -- and another 5,000 more by summer.