Coronavirus

As COVID Hospitalizations Surge, Texas Health Again Halts Elective Procedures

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at an all time high. As hospital capacity shrinks, some systems are taking extra precautions.

In North Texas, COVID-19 patients make up more than a quarter of all of those in the hospital. More than half of all intensive care unit patients are being treated for complications from the novel coronavirus. With dwindling capacity, health systems are once again ending elective and non-essential surgeries and procedures.  

Texas Health Resources is postponing outpatient elective and non-essential surgeries as of Thursday, January 7, in all wholly-owned hospitals until further notice.

“The prevalence of COVID-19 positive patients has caused a severe stress on inpatient and emergency department bed capacity and staffing resources,” reads a statement from THR. “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.” 

This is the first time that elective procedures have been postponed since the summer, during the previous peak in new daily infections and hospitalizations. Still, totals in North Texas and around the state have eclipsed the summer highs. (We have reached out to the other major hospital systems and will update as we hear back.)

There are more COVID-positive people in Texas hospitals than ever before, with 12,961 patients hospitalized with the disease. COVID-19 patients now occupy one in every five hospital beds. In the state’s Trauma Service Area E, which includes 19 counties in North Texas, there are more than 4,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, representing 26 percent of hospital capacity. There are just 46 intensive care unit beds available in the region as of Monday, with 11 in Dallas County, 14 in Tarrant County, and only five in all of Collin County. As of Monday, adult COVID-19 patients make up 50.99 percent of the total adult ICU beds in the region.

The numbers reported by the state change as patients enter and leave the hospitals and as systems add or subtract supply. Mayor Eric Johnson also shares bed capacity at hospitals inside the city of Dallas, a count that has differed from state numbers throughout the pandemic. The state count reflects only adult beds that are currently staffed. Johnson’s data include that total as well as pediatric and other facilities that are not included in what regional trauma administrators submit to the Texas Department of State Health Services. These pediatric and long term care facilities have ICUs and are available should the adult hospitals run entirely out of beds. Staffing those beds, however, will be a challenge. 

In either case, the numbers are trending in the wrong direction, and hospitals are not waiting for state leaders to take action. Hospital officials are expecting the surge to continue in the coming weeks. Gov. Greg Abbott has said that any Trauma Service Area where more than 15 percent of hospital beds are occupied by COVID patients will be subject to capacity rollbacks at businesses.

“We are entering an extremely serious and critical timeframe regarding COVID-19 treatment in North Texas,” said Steve Love, CEO and president of the DFW Hospital Council. “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 more dire. The models reflect a significant surge on top of our current surge in the next few weeks that will adversely impact the already fatigued and courageous clinical staff in our hospitals.”

UPDATE: Other health systems have not postponed elective procedures, as Baylor Scott & White Health and Methodist Health System are both monitoring the situation without ending any procedures. At BSW, a statement reads “To continue ensuring that our hospitals are ready for those who need care most during this time, we are carefully evaluating our capacity at each facility on a daily basis and are working with our patients and physicians to reschedule non-emergent procedures when doing so would create additional capacity for COVID-19-positive patients.” A Methodist Health System statement read “Some Methodist Health System hospitals have had to temporarily curtail surgical cases requiring an inpatient bed for recovery, but we have not done so across our system.”UT Southwestern, too, is monitoring the situation but is still doing scheduled procedures and surgeries.

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