DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s health department says emergency medical services are stretched so thin that it’s reactivated the crisis standards of care, which can impact how emergency care needs are prioritized.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced the news on Friday, citing “many EMS staff out ill” and “high demands for patient transports.” The last time these standards were activated was in April 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the state, “the crisis standards for Emergency Medical Services provide guidance for call centers, dispatch centers and emergency medical service agencies and responders regarding how to:

  • Interact with potentially infectious patients.
  • Maximize care for multiple patients with limited staff and emergency vehicles.
  • Determine what kind of treatment to provide, such as whether and where a patient should be transported for further care, if deemed necessary.”

For example, emergency dispatchers could use screening algorithms to determine which patients need more immediate care, according to a document detailing the standards. Private transportation could be urged over ambulance travel in certain situations. Some 911 calls could be deferred.

This is the second healthcare realm in the state that’s now operating under crisis standards. Back in November, the state activated the crisis standards of care for staffing shortages in hospitals.

“Crisis Standards of Care are protocols that help health care providers and systems decide how to deliver the best care possible under the extraordinary circumstances of a disaster or public health emergency,” according to the CDPHE. “These protocols may be used when there are not enough resources to provide the usual standard of care to people who need it. The goal of crisis standards of care is to extend care to as many patients as possible and save as many lives as possible.”