Houston-area hospitals adding ICU beds, staff as COVID-19 cases rise

Texas saw its highest number of daily new cases of coronavirus ever on the 4th of July with 8,268 new cases in one day, according to Texas Health and Human Services.

Intensive care units at hospitals in Harris County and southeast Texas are currently at about 97% capacity and are working on expanding their intensive care units as we speak, CEO of SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council Darrell Pile told FOX 26 on Monday.

“That leaves us 63 ICU beds below our normal maximum capacity,” said Pile. “It’s important to point out that that is a number that we created--the capacity number—because now hospitals are adding capacity in order to handle more patients. We’re not at a point where patients are not going to receive care from our hospitals. The hospitals have geared up to provide the care.”

Texas Medical Center’s latest data for hospitals in Houston and surrounding counties show more than 500 ICU beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients and more than 3,000 beds are not currently in use.

“Are we handling it today? Absolutely,” said Houston Methodist executive vice president Roberta Schwartz. “However, there will come a point in a number of weeks where if we do not do the things that we know work, then this will grow beyond the capacity that our hospitals can currently handle.”

Schwartz says her hospitals are currently converting some of the unused beds into COVID-19 ICU beds, and they’ve hired about 50 additional staff members in the past couple of weeks with more hires on the way.

She says some surgeries are being delayed due to COVID-19.

“They would be delayed because we’re transitioning that staff to take care of a different population,” said Schwartz. “And again, if your brain cancer needs to come out tomorrow, we’re doing that. But there are many procedures where we say, oh that could probably wait about two to three weeks—can we try and see if the situation’s better in two to three weeks at this point.”

About 43 percent of ICU patients are COVID-19 patients, whether you look at Harris County or the 25 county region of Southeast Texas, said Pile.

He says the hospitals are worried about that ratio quickly changing with the possibility of a surge in cases following July 4.