'We're back 1 year ago': Congresswoman calls on federal help for overwhelmed hospital systems

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee has requested for Gov. Greg Abbott to take action and help Texas hospitals that are overwhelmed by the rise of COVID-related hospitalizations paired with a shortage of nursing staff.

Houston-area officials say the latest wave of the virus is pushing the local health care system to nearly "a breaking point," resulting in some patients having to be transferred out of the region to get medical care, including one who had to be transported to North Dakota.

Jackson Lee said it's not only the lack of bed availability, but also the shortage of nurses to match a demand that has significantly impacted Houston and Harris County area hospitals.

The congresswoman toured the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in northeast Houston on Sunday to see first-hand what the medical staff is facing during the so-called 'fourth wave' of COVID-19, which has been amplified due to the delta variant and the number of unvaccinated Texans.

"There are only two ICU beds left," Jackson Lee said. "And, they have a tent that's on the other side of that overhang that is prepared to take COVID-19 patients, and they can help other hospitals, but they don't have nurses."

Jackson Lee said she wrote a letter to Abbott on Aug. 8, requesting urgent action from the Texas government to activate federal resources to help overwhelmed hospital systems. She said according to FEMA, the request must come from the State, including Texas Department of Health Services, in order to be activated.

"The only request that we have from the State of Texas are five mortuary trailers," she said referring to her conversation with FEMA representatives. "And that is to take the dead bodies of those who have died and succumbed to COVID. We are back one year ago."

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