Texas is causing unnecessary delay in medical support staff, health leaders say

Friday, August 13, 2021
Texas is causing unnecessary delay in medical staff, officials say
Prior to the recently announced out-of-state agreements with staffing agencies, there were already agreements in place, but they abruptly stopped.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Houston area is on pace to exceed its previous peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and doctors say we could reach that rate in as little as a week.

This has since caused a massive strain on hospital staffing. The state has said it's working with staffing agencies to provide temporary crews to help - which secures staff for a period of time.

This week, the CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital Marc Boom was among several health officials who testified before a Texas Senate committee and stressed the need for the state to make an agreement with staffing agencies.

"It puts you in a situation," he said. "Instead of hospitals competing with each other in the state, they're competing out-of-state for nurses."

Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state will assist with out-of-state medical personnel.

Soon after, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) announced details, saying they'd secured an additional 2,500 temporary medical personnel statewide.

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

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.

While that's good news, Darrell Pile, the CEO of the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council (SETRAC), said there have been unnecessary delays.

Prior to the recently announced out-of-state agreements with staffing agencies, there were already agreements in place, but Pile said they abruptly stopped, leaving health care facilities looking for staff at a time when COVID cases are surging.

"That cost became so significant, that on July 29, the state issued a letter saying that they're no longer going to offer agencies, and it's up to local governments, county and city leaders, to arrange for agency staffing using their own local funds that they received through the American Rescue Plan," said Pile.

DSHS and the Texas Department of Emergency Management has said local jurisdictions received federal funds and those could assist with expenses.

Pile said however the expense is paid for in the future can be worked out between the various parties, but to abruptly stop the agreements with staffing agencies, only to have to enter into new agreements only hurts the patients in need.

READ ALSO: Texas to help overwhelmed hospitals with more medical staff

"It's just not sufficient for the crisis at hand. We have people waiting for beds. We have people dying because they're not getting proper medical care. The ERs keep filling up, and this is just really, really sad," said Pile.

Meanwhile, hundreds are left waiting for beds.

In SETRAC's 25-county region, of the 575 patients who had been admitted to the hospital and were left waiting for a general bed, fewer than half were COVID patients.

Plus, 87 people who were admitted to the ICU didn't have a bed either.

"People of all types are waiting in ER in pain, maybe with cardiac symptoms, maybe with stroke symptoms," said Pile.

READ ALSO: Houston ICU nurse pens heartbreaking letter on COVID pandemic

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.

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 reporter Marla Carter on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.