Texas Medical Center CEO says hospital leaders are 'the most worried' he's seen during the pandemic

Saturday, August 21, 2021
Hospital leaders worried as COVID related hospitalizations increase
The world's largest medical center has hit a concerning milestone. Officials said they now have the highest number of patients they've seen since before the pandemic.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The Texas Medical Center has now reached the highest number of daily COVID patients they've seen since the pandemic began.

President and CEO of the Texas Medical Center, Bill McKeon, said other hospital CEOs are worried about the growing number of Texans being hospitalized with the virus.

"In having the calls with the [hospital] CEOs, this is the most worried I've seen all of them," McKeon said. "From the beginning of this pandemic, 18 months ago to now, this is where they have expressed the most concern, being worried because the numbers just keep coming."

He said the weekly averages of new COVID patients is up compared to the winter peak, which was previously the highest numbers healthcare officials had seen. They have now surpassed that average.

Adding to the hospital's strain is a lack of staffing. Those in the medical center said they have beds to accommodate patients, but not enough staff.

SEE ALSO: COVID cases pushing Houston hospitals to near breaking point

There is concern the hospital system could collapse because of the overwhelming amount of COVID-19 patients. Here is the latest on the situation with Houston hospitals.

"There's a limited amount. Even in the largest supply of hospital beds and physicians and nurses in the world in the Texas Medical Center, we are seeing that we're having to set up tents outside of our emergency rooms," he said. "People that need care, that are fully vaccinated and need care for things unrelated to COVID, are waiting for procedures."

Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston has set up a large tent outside that will open in the coming days for the increase of patients. The tents will be used to initially assess or treat patients arriving to the hospital. It will not be used to admit patients for longer stays.

Around 2,500 medical personnel from out-of-state are assisting with needs, some arrived to hospitals this week. Meanwhile, Gov. Abbott said that number will increase to 5,500 personnel by the end of next week. However, Texas Department of State Health Services said they need much more help. They've requested for more than 13,000 additional personnel.

SEE ALSO: Texas needs 13,000 extra hospital personnel, but it'll get just 2,500

In the last week, Texas requested the help of extra hospital personnel to address staffing shortages amid surging COVID cases. But, a count shows that the actual number of staff coming to the state is five times less than what it needs.

"We desperately need more," said McKeon. "To give you an example, we had 2,000 additional nurses only six months ago. So, we need many more nurses to come to our state."

Of the initial 2,500 medical personnel provided through the state, the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council said about 700 were coming, far less than the more than 2,000 professionals who assisted with the last surge. SETRAC projects southeast Texas needs at least 2,000 this time around too.

As the hospitalizations rise, experts say it has not reached its peak. McKeon said they are monitoring various models on when that peak could be, but it may be weeks before they see it.

"We're not going to see this drop-off for many more weeks, and then you will see deaths will come from that as well, because when people are in the hospital for the longest period of time, those are the ones that we typically lose," he said.

McKeon said he's encouraged that more people are getting vaccinated, and urged those who haven't received a dosage to get one if they're eligible. He's confident it will save lives.

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