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Amarillo hospital capacity remains critical, causing shortage of available ambulances

Updated: Nov. 4, 2020 at 12:04 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Hospital capacity in Amarillo remains critical as BSA, Northwest Texas Healthcare System and the Amarillo VA continue to see record numbers of COVID-19 patients.

During a news conference Wednesday morning, city leaders and health experts said the situation is critical.

Chief Jason Mays with the Amarillo Fire Department said the strain on the hospitals is causing a lack of available ambulances to respond to situations.

Chief Mays said fewer ambulances are available because they are backed up at the Emergency Rooms waiting for hospitals to find room for their patients.

He says the situation has resulted in times where there were zero ambulances available.

He also said the situation of emergency personnel having to quarantine is causing the department to lack emergency responders.

“If we can’t come to work, we can’t put people on firetrucks. We can’t respond to your medical calls. We can’t respond to your wrecks,” said Chief Mays.

Dr. Brian Weis, chief medical officer with NWTH, said the hospital has 112 positive COVID-19 patients today, with 39 in the ICU and 20 on ventilators.

NWTH has two dedicated ICUs for COVID-19 patients and three medical surge units as well. The hospital has had to move to double occupancy rooms for COVID-19 patients as NWTH was at 105 percent of adult capacity as of Tuesday.

104 staff members are on quarantine, and Dr. Weis says they are totally dependent on outside staffing resources.

Dr. Michael Lamanteer, chief medical officer for BSA, said “What we’re experiencing now is what we all feared back in the spring.”

Dr. Lamanteer says BSA has more than tripled the number of COVID-19 patients in one month’s time.

“That’s not sustainable,” he said.

BSA has 161 COVID-19 patients, 38 in adult ICU, one in the pediatric ICU, and one pediatric patient not in the ICU.

BSA has 171 employees quarantined, and 53 of those are nurses.

“This is pushing the envelope on our ability to manage our patients because we won’t have the healthcare workers to do so,” said Dr. Lamanteer.

Dr. Lamanteer says BSA is looking at other ways to use facilities outside of the hospital, but that is not ideal.

Dr. Rodney Gonzales, director of Amarillo VA, says the VA has 15 COVID-19 patients with seven in the ICU.

The VA has moved to a surge plan, expanded bed size and moved staff around who are trained but typically did not work in the inpatient area.

The hospitals have also seen pediatric patients with COVID-19. During the news conference, Casie Stoughton, the director of Amarillo Public Health, spoke about a kindergarten age child who recently died from the virus.

"We’re heartbroken, and our thoughts and prayers go out to this particular family and any family who has lost someone,” she said.

The health experts said it is important to remember the virus can cause anyone to become very sick and possibly die, even those who are young.

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