Amarillo health care workers ‘pleading for help’ as hospital capacity becomes more critical

Updated: Nov. 18, 2020 at 12:16 PM CST
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Hospitals in Amarillo continue to break records in regards to COVID-19 patients as the capacity becomes more critical.

During a news conference Wednesday morning, city leaders and health experts spoke about the hospital capacity and pleaded with citizens to work together to stop the spread.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said she is hearing from the medical community, and “they’re crying out for help.”

Mayor Nelson spoke about a city ordinance the Amarillo City Council will discuss during an emergency meeting on Friday.

The ordinance would give businesses the justification to tell customers they must wear masks, stay separated and not gather in groups of more than 10 people.

The city’s Department of Environmental Health would visit businesses and enforce the ordinance with a warning and the possibility of a fine up to $2,000.

“This is not an easy decision, and we didn’t go looking for this,” said Mayor Nelson.

Dr. Scott Milton, the public health authority with TTUHSC, said more than 1,000 health care workers in Amarillo have signed a petition asking for the city council to enforce Governor Greg Abbott’s order to wear masks in public.

Dr. Milton read a letter from Dr. Daniel Hendrick, former BSA chief of staff, asking for the enforcement.

Due to the high rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Dr. Hendrick’s letter read, "The quality of care for COVID and non-COVID conditions have been negatively impacted.”

He then urged the Amarillo City Council to enforce the COVID-19 guidelines at local businesses.

“If we do so soon, we can reduce transmission,” the letter read.

Dr. Brian Weis, the chief medical officer at NWTH, spoke about the COVID-19 situation at the hospital.

“I cannot imagine what our patients are going through lying in the hospital with COVID-19, hoping their next breath will be easier than the one they just had,” said Dr. Weis.

NWTH has 128 patients with COVID-19, 47 of those are in the ICU and 28 are on ventilators.

This morning, there were six patients in the Emergency Department at NWTH waiting for critical care beds. There are 25 people in the region waiting to be transferred to a hospital in Amarillo, and 11 of those need critical care beds.

NWTH has two full ICU’s of COVID-19 patients and three medical surge units for COVID-19 patients. The hospital is currently at 114% capacity.

129 staff members are quarantined, and Dr. Weis says NWTH is completely dependent on nurses and some physicians provided by the RAC.

Dr. Michael Lamanteer, the chief medical officer for BSA, says there were 200 COVID-19 patients in the hospital yesterday.

“The number of people dying from this disease is significantly higher than any other infection we’ve seen in a while," said Dr. Lamanteer.

The hospital continues to operate in the surge plan to care for both COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Lamanteer urged the citizens to follow COVID-19 precautions, especially with the upcoming holiday.

“With this upcoming holiday, the potential to break the hospital’s capacity to handle the patients is going to be exorbitant,” said Dr. Lamanteer.

The Amarillo VA has six non-veterans in the hospital now in order to help with the surge of cases in the area.

The hospitals say they are at maximum capacity for what they can do to care for critical care patients.

Dr. Weis mentioned the tent structures that have been seen at other cities facing high hospitalization rates, like Lubbock.

He said those structures are inadequate to provide critical care, so the hospitals are moving forward with other plans to increase the capacity.

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