Hospitals brace for potential COVID-19 winter surge with 2 active variants

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee was joined by medical leaders and UMMC staff on Saturday to urge the community to get vaccinated or get booster shots before an anticipated surge of COVID-19 cases this winter.

Dozens of nurses and doctors joined Jackson Lee at UMMC Hospital on Tidwell for a vaccine testing event.

Staff and volunteers handed out boxes filled with snacks, supplies and hand sanitizer for those going through the drive-thru vaccination and testing site.

The hospital has four locations across Houston. Stephen Williams, the director of the Houston Health Department, said the Tidwell location is vital to the community it serves.

"It is really important that we have a presence in our communities of color," Williams. "Only 51% of everybody in Houston is vaccinated. Only 61% of those that are eligible to be vaccinated, are vaccinated. Now, when you start to look at African Americans and Hispanic people, African Americans' vaccination rate are only in the mid-30%. What that tells me is that we got a lot of work to do. We, at the health department, know we cannot do that alone. We have to depend on partners like UMMC and we expect for you all to answer our calls."

As the hospital system prepares for an anticipated surge in cases, it is also facing a crisis of its own. UMMC is on the brink of losing its contract with Medicare and Medicaid.

SEE RELATED STORY: UMMC is days away from losing contract with Medicare and Medicaid

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, released the following statement this week:

"In this instance, CMS has found that UMMC, despite proposed corrective actions, is out of compliance with CMS basic health and safety requirements. The hospital remains out of compliance with Medicare requirements after three follow-up surveys."

The staff at UMMC Tidwell claim they have made the necessary changes and have a meeting scheduled with CMS next week. This comes days before the contract is up on Dec. 11.

"We are still working with all the problems we had. We are resolving them," said CEO Dr. Farida Moeen, "Moving forward, we will never give up."

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