HOUSTON - As Houston health care workers moved to and from the on-going battle with COVID-19, FOX 26 News spoke with the equivalent of a front-line general in the thick of the fight.
Dr. Faisal Masud is Director of Critical Care at Houston Methodist Hospital and is treating dozens of patients seriously ill with Coronavirus.
“I am amazed and blown away by the spirit of Texas in Houston. They have really stepped up. The nurses are volunteering to work. Doctors are volunteering to work. I already have a pool of people who want to work with the most critically ill patients,” said Masud.
Dr. Masud says Methodist is expanding from 150 to 300 ICU beds across the entire system in anticipation of a potential surge.
Currently, 75 of those beds are occupied with mostly critically ill patients suffering from COVID-19.
“They get admitted to ICU. We do a lot of treatment on them, to stabilize them. Unfortunately, a lot of them are going on the ventilators and that is a whole cascade of therapies,” said Masud.
And unlike the COVID-19 epicenters of Italy and Wuhan, China, Masud says a heavy percentage of Houston-area COVID-19 patients are middle-aged or younger.
“Almost 40% and above I am seeing, less than 50 years of age. Three most common things - they are diabetic, they have hypertension and they are very overweight. Those are the three most common things I'm seeing in the younger population. What it tells me is nobody is out of the risk pool,” said Masud.
Methodist says if the COVID-19 surge intensifies, plans are in place to expand ICU capacity even further.
Meantime, a few miles away at the NRG complex, work continues on a safety net defense to an even more serious scenario - a so-called "Emergency Shelter" constructed by Harris County to shield Medical Center Hospitals from becoming overwhelmed
Dr. Masud says what we do in our homes and neighborhoods will determine whether the pop-up facility is idle or full.
“My slogan is, this is not a vacation. You help us, let us help you, take care of you because we are putting ourselves and our family on the line, said Masud, adding, “You are our family, our extended family.”
While Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is hopeful the emergency shelter at NRG will never be needed, she also believes the 750 overflow beds are a necessary precaution.