HOUSTON - We've heard a lot about what's happening in the Texas Medical Center throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most hospitals have had to expand their intensive care units to handle the rise in patients, and now we learn that small hospitals in our suburbs are also being overwhelmed. We talked to the Internal Medicine Medical Director at OakBend Medical Center in neighboring Richmond to find out what's happening at that facility.
"We have no beds available, no ICU units available," states Dr. Gildardo Ceballos. The 274-bed facility is being stretched beyond capacity. Dr. Ceballos says medical workers have had to line-up patients in the halls of the emergency room the past few weeks, waiting for rooms to vacate. They're also using a special COVID unit, separating them with tarps and using ultraviolet lamps to sterilize and circulate the air.
Dr. Ceballos says he feels like we're all fighting an invisible enemy and says many medical workers are feeling overwhelmed. Their protective equipment, or PPE, is time-consuming and exhausting and their days are long.
"We are working from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day and weekends because of the high demand, we have so many patients that we have to take time, spend time talking to their families as well. After seeing them, we have to sit down and start talking to family members and that's very hard, especially with as sick as the patients who are not doing good, and we have to share those updates for the families, very stressful," states Dr. Ceballos.
He has also been signing more death certificates than he has in his career.
"It's hard. Last night, I signed four," he tells us.
Dr. Ceballos says it feels like war and fears many, or even most, medical workers will have to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after they can finally slow down when the pandemic ends.
"It's hard, believe me, dealing with all of these deaths, family, stress, trauma," says Dr. Ceballos.
They still continue day-in and day-out to be our heroes during the pandemic. They're also learning a lot along the way, including how to get patients home from the hospital faster. Once their patients stabilize, OakBend Medical Center has been able to send them home with an oxygen service and a telemedicine service to check on them each day, until they're healthier.