COVID-19 staffing in East Texas hospitals becoming more difficult after 10 months

COVID-19 staffing in East Texas hospitals becoming more difficult after 10 months

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - With area hospitals scrambling to create more ICU beds available for COVID-19 patients comes the question: who will watch over those beds? More ICU means more staffing.

Gregg County Health Authority Dr. Lewis Browne says tending to increasing ICU patients is a dilemma.

“There’s a finite number of nurses, there’s a finite number of doctors in this area,” Browne said.

He says roaming nurses and doctors tend to be offered higher pay and paid expenses to work in other states, but many are going back home.

“These people have been doing this for ten months. They’re all tired; exhausted,” Browne said.

He says an option is to work present staff longer hours, but that also leads to exhaustion.

“Patients are so critical that you need to be able to be fresh and thinking every time you’re there working with them,” Browne said.

He says some hospitals are finding more space for critical patients.

“Basically all the ICUs in the area are now doubled in size; they have recruited another parts of the hospital to make ICU beds,” Browne said.

CHRISTUS Good Shepherd Longview Chief Medical Officer Dr. Suhel Patel says his hospital is fortunate in that respect.

“We have additional space within the hospital that we’ve opened up to create that extra ICU space,” Patel said.

And as far as staffing that space:

“We try as best we can plan ahead and meet the needs and the demands of our community. We’re working diligently to insure that we prevent burnout; keep our staff, associates and patients safe,” Patel said.

So for now, Dr. Patel says it’s working. But Dr. Browne says with less availability of roaming medical staff, if critical patients begin rapidly exceeding ICU capacity they may be forced to go to the last resort.

“Probably trying to see if we can get some assistance from the services; the armed services,” Browne said.

Browne adds we are not at that point right now.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services Area G, which includes Gregg and Smith Counties, presently has 23 ICU beds available, and has been above 15 percent COVID-19 hospitalizations for 24 days.

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