Colorado lawmakers push to create a health care reserve corps
House Bill 21-1005 — which passed through the Colorado House Health and Insurance Committee on Wednesday — would establish a health care services reserve corps task force. This task force would make recommendations to the Legislature concerning the creation of a health care services reserve corps program. Through this program, a pool of health care workers would receive extensive cross-training, equipping them with a broad set of medical skills that would allow them to serve the state of Colorado in the event of an emergency or a disaster.
Representative Kyle Mullica, one of the bill’s prime sponsors and a practicing ER nurse, was motivated to bring forward the bill from firsthand experience on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of the things I’ll never forget is the look of appreciation when I showed up to help these people — not only the patients but the workers, who had been going through a lot. It’s something that stuck with me.”
He emphasized the immense stress he observed in many health workers:
“Doing the job that health care workers are doing is extremely hard and it’s something that, until you live it and until you experience it firsthand, I’m not quite sure if you would know what it feels like.”
The task force would be required to meet at least once every two months and would consist of licensing and liability experts, medical professionals, hospitals, state departments and cross-training facilitators. The members would consult with medical schools, nursing schools and other stakeholders. They will gather information on what kinds of medical professionals to include in the program, identify any obstacles to implementing the program, evaluate the costs associated with the program and more.
Representative Yadira Caraveo, the bill’s other prime sponsor in the House and a practicing pediatrician, elaborated:
“The cross-training will consider their scope of practice, licensing, etc. as a medical professional and will make sure that these professionals are ready to respond to any kind of emergency that the state may face.”
One of the main goals of this bill is to address the difference in stress levels between different healthcare professionals. For instance, Mullica said that while he has been experiencing an increase in work volume during the pandemic, Caraveo has had a decrease in volume in her practice.
Caraveo explained how this program can provide assistance to health care workers under the most severe stress while also easing the guilt of other health care workers who, although may perhaps have a lower workload, are not trained to help in health care areas other than their own.
“How do we make sure that, with the next pandemic or the next wildfire season or whatever it is that life brings our way, Colorado is better prepared to deal with these emergencies so that some members of the health care professions are not being inundated and burnt out while others are feeling the guilt of perhaps not seeing as many patients as they usually would.”
The bill requires the task force to compile a report of their findings and send it to the health committees of both legislative chambers by Dec. 1, 2023. It specifies that task force members will not be compensated for their work on the program, but they will receive student loan relief for their service.
“We have broad support, from the hospitals to the doctors to the nurses. The end product will not only allow Colorado to be more self-sufficient and to not necessarily rely on out-of-state health care workers to be called into Colorado, but to allow us to cross-train these medical professionals on how to deal with critical care patients, how to run a ventilator, so that we can rely on what we have here in Colorado.”