'Please send help now': Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital staff say they're beyond breaking point

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee requested for Gov. Greg Abbott to call for federal resources to respond to Houston-area hospital systems overwhelmed by the COVID-19 surge and a nursing shortage.

A tent has been set up at the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital for a week now to help with the overflow of COVID-19 patients, but there's not enough staff to attend to the at least six additional beds.

"Our staffing capacity and bed needs will dictate this being available. We'll put patients in here right away," said Dr. George Williams, the medical co-director of the surgical ICU at LBJ. "This is designed for COVID-19 patients. We have barriers, we have equipment and drugs located in a way that we can make sure we can care for COVID patients here. Even the monitors and everything that is set up is designed for COVID-19 patients."

The Harris Health System's nurse staff is down 21.5%. At LBJ Hospital, the staff said they are seeing a 26.6% nursing shortage.

Abbott has requested 2,500 contracted nurses from out of state to help hospitals across Texas.

A fraction of those nurses may possibly arrive to LBJ within the coming weeks, but Jackson Lee said it is not nearly enough to help the crisis all hospitals are facing across the region.

"The 2,500 (nurses) are not enough. It will not be enough, and it will not in any way answer the crisis of a big medical center, of hospitals in Dallas, of rural hospitals, it will not meet the test," Jackson Lee said. "Finally, to tell jurisdictions to use their CARES money, which they have explained to me was for specific items, some of it depleted, is unrealistic as well."

Jackson Lee said unlike other governors in neighboring states, Abbott still has not requested for FEMA to help the overwhelmed hospitals.

Jackson Lee has organized a partnership program to get second-year student-nurses from Lone Star College to work and help the staff with Harris Health System.

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