ICUs remain busy despite drop in hospitalizations

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- While COVID-19 hospitalizations have started to decline, they are declining from a plateau that was at record levels in Houston. ICUs still remain very busy as those doctors and nurses deal with the sickest of patients.

"It's labor intensive for the staff and it can be emotionally draining when you see patients, despite us doing everything, unfortunately, can't turn around," said co-director of ICU at Memorial Hermann at the Woodlands Medical Center Dr. Daniel Kievlan.

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According to the Texas Medical Center, as of Aug. 3, ICU base bed capacity was at 99%, this a decrease from where it was.

Previously, ICU bed capacity was in phase two of the TMC surge plan. Still, with the base capacity full, it's keeping staff busy.

Kievlan said there are two types of patients they're seeing in the ICU. The patients that need oxygen assistance and stay for approximately five to seven days, and then, the patients whose cases progress and need a ventilator. Their stays could last two weeks or longer.

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Treating patients who are really sick is more work for staff that's been going non-stop for months. Kievlan said last week, he was speaking with the nursing administration at one of the hospitals. It had been a tough day.

"They had three nurses crying on shift due to kind of being overwhelmed with various patient care and just fatigue in some of this. It's hard, I think, especially in our end where we're seeing the sickest of the sick patients and when you're working for two or three weeks on somebody on a ventilator and trying to get them better, if despite everything were doing they don't get better it can be really devastating," said Kievlan.

He's grateful people have been wearing masks and practicing safe social distancing. He believes that is what caused Houston to avert a situation which could have been much worse. His concern now is that people will let down their guard and it could cause cases to go back up again.

"We're all relieved that we didn't get to that scenario where we're having to continue expanding and expanding and having kind of our third and fourth line ICU and floor bed expansions for coronavirus patients. We're glad we averted that but we're all worried that if the community stops what we're doing and gets fatigued and stops the masking and social distancing that we're going to get another bad surge," said Kievlan.

He's asking people to continue wearing masks and social distancing to ensure the health care system doesn't get overwhelmed.

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