The High-risk Infection Team (HITeam) supports Denver Health and Hospital Authority (DHHA) in preventing, preparing for, and responding to public health emergencies related to special pathogens. The HITeam is prepared to identify, diagnose, isolate, and provide patient care to a patient admitted to the Biocontainment Unit (BCU) with suspected or confirmed high risk pathogen infections. The HITeam also provides expertise for personal protective equipment (PPE).
The HITeam is a comprehensive group of dedicated and skilled staff including nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, paramedics, infection preventionists, and laboratory scientists.
In response to the 2014 West African Ebola Outbreak, Denver Health created the High-Risk Infection Team (HITeam) to ensure readiness and preparedness for our community, hospital and staff against public health emergencies related to special pathogens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assessed Denver Health’s facilities readiness and in 2015, Denver Health received designation as a Regional Emerging Special Pathogen Treatment Center (RESPTC) in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE).
Denver Health maintains readiness through:
- The ability to accept special pathogen patients within eight hours of being notified.
- Maintain the capacity to treat at least two special pathogen patients at the same time.
- Conduct quarterly training and exercises.
- Participate in an annual readiness assessment by experts from health care facilities that have safely and successfully cared for special pathogen patients in the United States.
- Be prepared to treat pediatric patients with a special pathogen or partner with a neighboring facility.
- Be able to safely handle Category A waste.
Denver Health undergoes an annual site visit from the National Emerging Special Pathogen Training and Education Center (NETEC) to assess readiness from colleagues from across the country.
Members of the voluntary High-risk Infection Team participate in more than 20 hours of training annually to ensure readiness and competency to work in the Biocontainment Unit. This training is in addition to the training that they receive as part of their day-to-day roles in the healthcare system.
More than 60 volunteer members make up the Denver Health High-risk Infection Team (HITeam). This team consists of nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, paramedics, infection preventionists, and laboratory scientists. The HITeam also has the ability to rapidly expand its roster as needed through consultation with specialists and just-in-time training.
Denver Health serves the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Region 8 which includes Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Denver Health collaborates with other RESPTCs and NETEC to support technical assistance requests from across the country.
The Denver Health Paramedic Division (DHPD) has been designated as the state-wide lead for special pathogen transport in Colorado. DHPD coordinates special pathogen transport with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Regional Emerging Special Pathogen Treatment Center representatives, and other partners to ensure a successful patient transport.
If a person is suspected or known to be infected with a special pathogen, state, regional or federal partners may request consideration for admission to the biocontainment unit. Denver Health may also accept special pathogen patient transfers from other healthcare facilities if the sending facility’s response capacity has been exceeded. No matter the activation pathway, Denver Health will coordinate and collaborate with partners to gather information, discuss next steps, and collectively determine if BCU activation is appropriate.
Activation of the BCU is decided on a case-by-case basis. Some of the pathogens which the BCU could be activated for are listed below:
Viral hemorrhagic fevers
Additional special pathogens