Texas hospitals on edge as coronavirus cases rise

Anxiety is settling in for Texas hospital officials as the number of coronavirus patients has increased in recent days.

“We currently have space, but things have to change. This is not good, ”said Dr. Faisal Masud, medical director of critical care medicine in the Houston Methodist hospital system. “The explosion of patients everywhere, that explosion has to decrease.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday that “there is a massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the state of Texas,” with more than 5,551 coronavirus cases on Wednesday and more than 4,000 hospital patients with COVID-19. total case over 11,000 over two days. The state is in its second week of record coronavirus hospitalizations.

“I think we can do it right now, but if this trajectory is that of the last 10 days,” said Masud, “when we literally had almost triple our cases, we cannot do it for a couple of weeks at all.”

Harris County, which includes Houston, has had the biggest jump and turned to a pediatric hospital to receive transfer patients and free up space for other hospitals.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner reported that the area’s intensive care units are at 97 percent of capacity.

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In a statement Wednesday, the Texas Hospital Association said hospitals are reserving 15 percent of the capacity of beds for COVID-19 patients and that they could slow down or pause non-COVID-related procedures to increase capacity.

But they also warned in a statement that “if this trend continues, it is not sustainable.”

‘Huge stress’ of balancing the coronavirus, other patients

In San Antonio, Dr. Bryan Alsip, medical director of the University Health System, one of the largest health systems in the city, said that rapid increases are being seen in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in all facilities, according to cases reported outside the city hospital.

The facility had reverted to non-COVID procedures in the past six weeks, Alsip said. But as COVID-19 cases increased, hospitals were put more pressure on their capacity.

This week they are reducing elective surgery cases “just to make sure we have sustainable capacity in the future,” Alsip said.

Alsip said the hospitals are in the same position as the companies that had to close earlier in the year. Upon returning, they have tried to balance reopening with security by limiting customers and asking them to maintain social distance and wear masks.

“Hospitals are in the same position because the procedures, many of these cases are sources of income, and therefore it is not easy to close it again as we did previously,” Aslip said.

Masud, who oversees eight hospitals in the Houston Methodist system, said the facilities are under “tremendous stress” as they try to cope with the jump in cases, while trying to treat patients who have been waiting for procedures they should have had done three months.

“We also owe it to the patient who doesn’t have COVID,” he said. “For me, a patient is a patient. If you have a person or a loved one who has a heart attack, am I not supposed to provide care?

While capacity is often discussed in terms of beds, Masud said that more COVID-19 patients mean more stress on staff and equipment. The hospital system is also helping county hospitals.

“In March and April, all the elective procedures were canceled so that we could apply many more COVID-focused teams and we really did very well,” he said. “The challenge is that we have to care for a whole set of other patients. Not that I can triple my capacity overnight because we have so many other patients. “

Staff was fired, now needed

The COVID-19 treatment doesn’t just mean finding an available bed, he said, noting that “you can have a bed at the Marriott.” Pandemic patent care requires nurses, therapies, critical care physicians, and other people and equipment.

In addition to the stress, some hospitals have suspended staff due to the interruption or slowdown of elective procedures, which generate income.

“A lot of the staff that is needed now has to be rehired or find more people; that means more PPE, we need more of that,” said Diana Fite, president of the Texas Medical Association and an emergency. care doctor

Even if the state can handle the latest increase in cases, sudden increases are difficult in doctors’ offices and in some smaller hospitals that work with low profit margins, he said.

Abbott said Wednesday that some new restrictions may be necessary at the local level to protect the hospital space.

There are no state mandates on masks and other COVID-19 prevention, but Abbott now allows local officials to order companies to require customers to wear masks. Some Texas officials faced stiff reaction when they tried to impose penalties for not wearing masks.

The reaction to the growing cases of coronavirus in Texas spread to social media on Tuesday with #AbbottResign trending nationally for part of the day.

Medical personnel interviewed Wednesday were eager to make public requests for people to return to a more cautious mindset about the coronavirus.

Fite said people should think again about using the sidewalk pickup again and staying indoors.

“If we don’t do something different today, we will have no choice,” Masud said.