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'Crisis standards of care': U. Md. Capital Region Health makes changes amid surge in COVID-19 cases

On Friday, the medical group announced changes that will allow staff to be reassigned to areas of need and for surgeries to be postponed.

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — Due to spiking COVID-19 cases in the area and staffing shortages, University of Maryland Capital Region Health announced Friday that three hospitals would shift to "crisis standards of care (CSC)" to better handle the surge. 

University of Maryland Capital Regional Medical Center in Largo, UM Bowie Health Center, and the Emergency Department at UM Laurel Medical Center will be impacted by the change, which will allow for staff to be reassigned to areas of need and for surgeries to be postponed.

"This is not a decision we made lightly and is one that was made after exhausting all other avenues to address issues that are challenging our operations,” said Trudy Hall, MD, UM Capital vice president and deputy chief medical officer. “CSC is a necessary step to address the needs of our patients and team members, given the current circumstances.”

Prince George's County has especially been hit hard with COVID-19 in recent weeks, with recent Maryland Department of Health data showing a testing positivity rate of 29.13 percent in late December. That figure was the highest in Maryland. On the whole, the state averaged a testing positivity rate of 19.31 percent.

The Prince George's County Health Department added that the hospitalization rate in Prince George’s had also increased 27 percent since last week, reaching 200 patients for the first time since February 2021.

Many health facilities continue to deal with staffing shortages and by switching to "crisis standards of care," former Maryland Nurses Association President Charlotte Wood said teams could better manage patient treatment.

"At this moment in time, CSC is going to provide for more resources, it’s going to shift resources, it’s going to streamline resources," Wood said. "When you move into the crisis component, you’re not only able to delegate some of the activities you have to unlicensed personnel, but you might be able to shift down and take more of the type of patients you're dealing with."

Wood told WUSA 9 on Saturday that the shift to CSC will lead to decisions being made on a daily or shift-by-shift basis concerning if a patient should be moved from intensive care or if they can be sent home. 

However, she believed that the patients will still receive critical care if they are suffering from a severe illness.

"No patient will be compromised by these particular types of decisions," she said. "They’re decisions that must be made in order for patients to have the level of care they may need and should receive, but the desire of standard that we normally give will be modified.”

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