Safe-Haven Transfers at Lincoln Health Community Hospital

Small Town Hospital Offers Recovery for Patients Discharged from Urban Systems

Rural Lincoln Health Provides “Safe-Haven” for Recovering COVID-19 Patients

(Hugo, Colorado, April 8)- It was with great fanfare that 80-year-old Lorene Steel left Lincoln Health Community Hospital last Thursday. Hospital staff lined the hallway cheering as Lorene walked on her own out into the sunlight for the first time in several weeks.

The Greeley resident initially spent many days being treated for COVID-19 symptoms at North Colorado Medical Center, but when it was time for Lorene to leave, she was still in need of rehabilitation care. That’s when the rural hospital about 2 hours south and east of Greeley stepped in.

Colorado hospitals are working together for the benefit of all Coloradans to best manage our limited resources, like ICU beds. By utilizing a reverse-transfer system, referred to as “Safe-Haven” Transfers, busy urban hospitals can transfer recovering patients to less congested rural hospitals that need the new revenue sources due to declining volumes.

Lincoln Health accepted the first two COVID-19 patients in Colorado to be transferred to a rural hospital for continued care. Lincoln Health CEO Kevin Stansbury says there are two reason why they were such a proponent of the system. “The staff at Lincoln Health understand our strengths and our limits.  We don’t have capacity to care for critically ill patients.  We do however have great capacity to care for general medical and surgical patients who may not need care in the ICU.  Because we are an established hospital with well qualified staff and established infrastructure it only makes sense to utilize our excess capacity during this crisis.  It would be sadly ironic if during this time of unprecedented pressure on our urban colleagues, rural hospitals and our staffs were idle, and patients are transferred to temporary facilities.”

Although Lorene didn’t know where Hugo was before being transferred, and was hesitant to leave the city, she says now she knows it happened for a reason. “I cannot say enough about this place. I will tell my minister that I think God changed me because of Hugo, I think that’s pretty wonderful when a place changes your perspective that much.”  She spent 5 days at Lincoln Health, and although smaller, the rural hospital has a lot to offer recovering patients, Lorene said it best- “People were so friendly and warm- I couldn’t tell the difference between a CNA or RN, no one was too busy or too good to help.” That personalized care is what the rural hospitals can offer patients that are no longer in need of intensive care.

Lincoln Health has accepted 4 COVID-19 patients in April and is just one of the 10 member hospitals of the Eastern Plains Health Consortium, a collaborative of rural hospitals working together to provide excellent health services for rural communities, willing to accept Safe Haven transfers.

Lincoln Health is a fully integrated rural health system located in Eastern Colorado consisting of a 15-bed critical access hospital, attached 35-bed skilled nursing care center, family practice clinic, specialty clinic, all on their main campus in Hugo. Lincoln Health also operates a Therapy/ Ophthalmologist Clinic and Family Practice clinics in Limon, a Family Practice Clinic in Flagler, an Assisted Living Home in Hugo and a Mobile Health Clinic which travels to under-served communities outside our primary service area- such as Deer Trail, Byers, Bennett and Simla.