Gov. Greg Abbott requests 2,500 agency nurses to help overloaded hospitals

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- More than 2,500 contracted medical staff will be flown in from out-of-state to help Texas hospitals grapple with the COVID-19 delta surge.

Darrell Pile, the CEO of the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council, said the rate of hospitalizations across the state is overwhelming.

"It's unprecedented. I really thought when we experienced [Hurricane Harvey] that I had probably hit a peak in my career, but no. This situation is much worse, and people are dying as we stand here talking," said Pile.

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At Texas Children's Hospital, nurses are being moved around to keep hospital beds operating and fully-functional as they see record-breaking hospitalizations.

"We've actually set now three records in the past four days," said Dr. Jim Versalovic, the TCH interim pediatrician-in-chief.

Each day, more children are hospitalized as TCH combats a dual surge of COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

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She describes her day-to-day life as "exhausting" and said she and her team feel anger, fear, trauma and despair as each day goes on.

Versalovic said more than 45 children, ranging from infants to teens, are being treated across the hospital system's three campuses, with several requiring ventilator support.

"[We're] clearly now at a new high in terms of pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19," said Versalovic.

The previous peak for pediatric and adolescent hospitalizations at TCH was more than 40 patients in January.

Pile said during the peak of the pandemic in January, our 25-county region that makes up SETRAC used about 2,000 agency nurses.

This time, he estimates we need about the same number to keep up with the demand for hospital beds.

"They may have beds in the list on paper, that you know we can take 1,000 patients, but right now, [Wednesday,] because of fewer nurses available, they can't take them," said Pile.

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced the additional support on Wednesday after cancelling a similar contract nursing program on July 29.

Agency nurses will be allocated from the state level and closely tracked. It unclear how quickly they'll begin working in our hospitals.

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 reporter Shelley Childers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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