Patients sometimes waiting hours for care at Houston hospital emergency rooms overwhelmed by COVID-19

Houston area hospitals continue to notice a surge in people seeking emergency help.

"We are getting super sick patients without COVID, but also now we’re getting inundated with COVID," said Daniella Butler-Winey from Houston Methodist Hospital. "It’s a double whammy."

Texas Medical Center is reporting a dramatic increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the last several weeks. In late June, TMC averaged about 48 daily Coronavirus hospitalizations per day. However, that number is now 369.

"It’s hard for people to wrap their minds around an 800-900 bed hospital being full," said Butler-Winey. "That is the case. The beds are filled. We have to find places for these people to sit and wait."


Houston’s Fire Department is also noticing an increase in emergency calls across the city.

According to HFD Chief Samuel Pena, their 104 ambulances typically average about 1,000 calls per day in total. However, they’re now responding to roughly 1,200 emergency calls per day.

"The hospitals are feeling it," said Pena. "The entire system is feeling a pinch. It’s really putting a stress in our ability to serve this community."

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Chief Pena describes a domino effect. As a result of hospitals being overwhelmed, it’s taking ambulances more time to drop patients off at emergency rooms. This means less ambulances out on the streets responding to calls.

"We had a patient sitting on a stretcher at one of our area hospitals waiting for over 5 and-a-half hours to be transferred to the ER," said Pena. "My biggest concern is not being able to serve those critical calls if this issue isn’t addressed with capacities at hospitals. That’ll allow us a quicker turnaround to get our units back in service."

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As of Monday evening, we’re told Houston’s Ben Taub Hospital’s ICU is 104% full, 31% of those patients are COVID related. Similarly, Lyndon B. Johnson ICU is 90% full and 58% of their patients are COVID related.

Butler-Winey says they might need to add more hospital beds at their hospital if the surge worsens.

"We’re always looking for our next area to surge," said Butler-Winey. "So, we don’t get caught in a bind with not having a bed for a patient that needs care."