HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston-area hospital systems are overwhelmed and overcrowded as COVID-19's "fourth wave" spreads throughout the area.
Dr. Neil Gandhi, an ER physician with Houston Methodist Hospital, told ABC13 medical staff are being forced to treat some patients in hallways or on stretchers simply because there aren't enough beds.
"This week, we've seen a large increase in the number of cases and a big turning point here in the city of Houston," he said. "Much of that has to do with the nature of COVID-19, and that the growth of it is what we call 'exponential.' So instead of simply increasing a small amount each week, we start to see a doubling or tripling or quadrupling from week to week, and that's what's concerning for us as health care professionals."
According to the Texas Medical Center, the number of new COVID cases reported every day has nearly doubled in one week in the greater Houston area.
Dr. David Callender, the CEO and president of Memorial Hermann Hospital, said the overflow issue is not just happening across the city, but it's happening all across state and the country.
"This is primarily a pandemic of the unvaccinated, but it's impacting all of us," he said. "It's actually beginning to threaten health care for people with other problems."
On Thursday, an 11-month-old girl from the Houston area had to be airlifted to Temple, Texas, because no pediatric hospitals in Houston would accept her as a transfer patient.
Eyewitness News spoke with the mother of the baby on Friday.
Estefani Lopez said it all started on Wednesday. Her daughter, Ava Rivera, initially started showing mild symptoms of the virus at the time, but by early Thursday morning, Lopez was rushing her daughter to LBJ Hospital.
"It hurts," said Lopez. "I wouldn't want this pain on no other mother ... to watch their kid flat lining, having seizures, tubes down their throat, being hospitalized."
LBJ Hospital staff told Lopez in order for the baby to get the appropriate care, she needed to be admitted to a pediatric hospital immediately.
Staff called at least five Houston-area hospitals and all beds were full. Baby Ava had to be sent 150 miles away from home to get care.
"It's making me kind of mad that people have taken COVID as a joke," Lopez said, "It's not a joke. Like, it's very, very serious. Our babies are in danger. Everybody's in danger."
Lopez said Ava was finally removed from a ventilator and is breathing on her own. She's hoping they can return home soon to quarantine and recover.
"You want your babies at home, not in a hospital," said the mother. "So my message would be to be safe. Stay home, and make sure whoever is around you is staying home or getting tested."
Meanwhile, like many other hospital systems, Callender has had to bring back some of the restrictions for hospital visitors to try to limit the exposure to families and loved ones.
"We need to wear masks right now so we can slow it down," he said. "This is just going to continue and the consequences are going to get worse if we don't get more people vaccinated."