COVID-19 patients represent a little more than half of all patients currently in North Texas ICUs, officials said and major counties have less than 10 ICU beds open.
As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to reach “dire” levels across the state, Texas Health Resources announced it will postpone all outpatient elective and non-essential surgeries and procedures.
“Our inventory of PPE and ventilators is strong. We’re mainly concerned about our supply of healthcare workers and the many months of stressful work they’ve endured in the care of these patients,” spokesperson Amanda Huffman said.
The pause at its “14 wholly-owned hospitals” is because the group is dealing with such a high number of COVID-19 patients. The disease is causing “a severe stress on inpatient and emergency department bed capacity and staffing resources,” according to the spokesperson.
“This, along with record numbers of COVID-19 positive cases in our communities, demands that our hospitals initiate their surge plans to accommodate the increased volume,” the spokesperson said.
The decision is in accordance with an order Gov. Greg Abbott issued in September. The order requires hospital groups to postpone such procedures in areas with high hospitalizations if those procedures would “deplete any hospital capacity needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.”
The group says patients should contact their doctors with any questions.
Texas Health has 27 hospitals, more than 80 outpatient facilities, and more than 250 other community clinics and doctors’ offices. Within those, the group operates around 3,400 available beds.
A spokesperson with Texas Health said this decision does not apply to all their 27 hospital locations and numerous outpatient centers because they do not necessarily keep patients overnight and are not treating COVID-19 patients.
Texas Health said these facilities perform procedures that do not impact their capacity to care for COVID-19 patients.
The news comes as the state reported its highest 7-day case average and the largest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began on Monday.
And experts believe a post-Christmas surge has not yet begun to be realized, which, when it arrives, will further tax the “already fatigued and courageous clinical staff in our hospitals.”
“COVID-19 has filled our hospitals with very sick and dying people, and we have taken this step to help deal with this high volume of critically ill patients,” Huffman said.
Several Texas Health hospitals that have been unusually busy with COVID-19 patients have already been postponing some procedures, the spokesperson said.
“The models reflect a significant surge on top of our current surge in the next few weeks,” said Stephen Love, the president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.
Typically, people are hospitalized a week or two after testing positive for the virus.
State officials reported a combined 17,939 new cases Monday, along with 52 additional deaths.
There are also an estimated 12,961 people currently hospitalized across the state, the highest number since the pandemic began.
Those numbers have continued to climb dramatically since the end of December, going from about 10,868 in hospitals on Christmas to those nearly 13,000 patients by Jan. 4.
Across the North Texas region, there were 3,982 COVID-19 patients hospitalized Monday, according to Love.
That was an “overwhelming 259-patient increase” from just the day before, he said.
And as the number of hospitalizations has risen each day, the number of available ICU beds has dropped.
“Our hospital bed capacity is being challenged, our workforce stretched to the ultimate and the expected surge forthcoming as a result of the recent holidays will only make the situation even direr,” Love explained.
From Sunday to Monday, an additional 81 ICU beds filled up across Texas, state data shows, leaving around 625 such beds available for the roughly 29 million people who live in Texas.
For those in the North Texas region, there are currently around 50 ICU beds available, according to Love.
While Dallas County has the most at 21 available ICU beds, Collin County has just two beds and Ellis County is at three. Tarrant and Denton’s counties have nine and 10 open ICU beds, respectively.
COVID-19 patients represent a little more than half of all patients currently in North Texas ICUs, Love explained. And overall, COVID-19 patients make up a little more than a quarter of total hospital capacity in the region.
“We are entering an extremely serious and critical timeframe regarding COVID-19 treatment in North Texas,” he said.