Virus hospitalizations set another record-high as staff shortages strain area hospitals

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The City of El Paso reported yet another record-high number of COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday, with a total of 373 patients in area hospitals. Of those patients, 131 are in the ICU.

As of Wednesday night, the Texas Health and Human Services Department (TxDSHS) reports only 10 available ICU beds in the El Paso region. That area includes El Paso, Hudspeth and parts of Culberson counties.

However, the City of El Paso says there are 234 staffed ICU beds and 285 licensed ICU beds. The staffed and licensed bed counts rely on hospitals expanding existing “base” ICU capacities

A local registered nurse treating COVID-19 patients described his experience as his hospital sees an increase of infected patients daily. The nurse chose to remain anonymous.

“We have an ICU and a Covid ICU and our Covid ICU is full and there’s some overflowing into our ICU, to the point where we have patients waiting in the emergency room,” the nurse said.

The nurse said the increase of patients puts a strain on nurses who are already dealing with rotating shifts and being called in to cover the increasing patients.

“I wish people were able to just come and walk through the hospital to get an idea just so they could understand this is real,” the nurse said.

Hospital beds in El Paso

University Medical Center reports 354 licensed beds at UMC’s main campus.

A UMC spokesperson said it has an additional amount of beds at a recently acquired ambulatory surgery center. Currently, the ASC is used for non-COVID endoscopic procedures and other cases, as needed.

UMC said while it has a designated, standing amount of ICU beds during normal conditions, it has implemented a surge plan that allows to expand that number based on need by re-designating non-ICU rooms/beds for ICU.

The UMC spokesperson said the hospital has a comprehensive surge plan that was drafted in Spring 2020 that anticipated the current surge of patients, as well as a much larger surge — should it ever occur. For example, the new ambulatory surgery center is equipped to handle any overflow of non-COVID-19 patients from UMC’s main campus.

Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare reports 225 operational beds at Las Palmas Medical Center and 260 operational beds at Del Sol Medical Center.

The hospitals said capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid situation that changes daily, sending a statement reading:

Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare hospitals currently have the ER and ICU capacity to meet the needs of our patients, and we also have the ability to add capacity, including converting current rooms and beds to ICU and/or negative air flow rooms, if needed.

Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare

The hospital network adds its hospitals too are implementing a surge plan.

The Hospitals of Providence said at each of its hospitals, they have expanded and opened additional units to respond and care for the influx of patients at the hospitals.

Staff shortages

Deputy Chief Jose Rodriguez of the Office of Emergency Management said while hospitals have their respective plans to accommodate a surge of patients, more hands are needed.

“The additional staffing support has been requested, and that’s the key demand right now, is staffing,” Rodriguez said.

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state was sending 75 medical staffers to the Borderland to assist with the increase of hospitalizations.

Area hospitals confirmed they’ve started receiving nurses and respiratory therapists.

Dr. Armando Meza, the Chief of infectious diseases at Texas Tech University Health and Sciences Center El Paso works with UMC on both Covid and non-Covid units. He said the hospitals have planned to accommodate increasing patients since the pandemic began and continues in El Paso.

“There are many facilities in El Paso that could become hospitals in the sense they can provide services and obviously that is a not an ideal option but if it needs to be done it will be done,” Meza said.

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