And as Texas faces another rise in hospitalizations approaching a peak witnessed during the 2020 holiday season, officials are concerned over health care worker shortages.
“The State of Texas is taking action to ensure that our hospitals are properly staffed and supported in the fight against Covid-19,” Abbott said in a news release Wednesday. Details on where the additional medical staff were coming from, or where they would be deployed, have yet to be revealed.
Citing long work hours, constant exposure to Covid-19 infection, and yet another surge of patients who are generally sicker and require more attention, Porsa said staffs are reaching critical shortages that are difficult to fill.
“I have lost staff to fatigue and retirement,” Porsa said, adding that one area hospital had 25% of its ICU beds unavailable because of staffing issues.
“I always see the silver lining, but I am frightened by what is coming,” Porsa said.
Health care systems strained
Because hospitals are filling up and there is less staff available to intake patients, a bottleneck effect is compounding ambulance availability, creating “risks for delays in emergency response to the next call in our community,” Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said.
“In an EMS system as busy as Houston’s, detention of EMS crews at the hospitals will result in increased response times for the entire system,” Peña told CNN on Wednesday, noting that ambulance crews are waiting more than an hour at hospitals in some instances.
The fire chief said strategies such as utilizing Covid-19 tents would be beneficial in relieving the bottleneck at hospital emergency departments.
“He was evaluated at the hospital by medical staff, including blood lab tests and x-rays, all while on our ambulance stretcher because there was no room available for the patient to be transferred to. The patient’s symptoms/chief complaint resolved sometime after the physical assessment at the hospital. So for many hours he was stable and symptom-free, but still on an emergency ambulance stretcher,” he said.
“Keeping a patient on an ambulance stretcher and an ambulance unit out of service for this long is not acceptable. This is not good for the patient, it is not good for our ambulance crews and it is not good for our community,” he said.
Peña says his message to the community is that anyone who can get the Covid-19 vaccine should do so immediately.
“The vaccine will help protect the recipient and help reduce the stress on local hospitals. People who are hesitant to get the vaccine due to any co-morbidities should consult their primary care physicians for advice,” the fire chief said.
But because it takes weeks after inoculations to gain full immunity, Porsa said in his Senate testimony that even in the rosiest of scenarios, the surge is likely to continue in the near future and immediate measures must be taken.
“Even if the entire population of Texas got vaccinated today, we do not really, logically expect any impact on the numbers a month from now,” Porsa said. “There is no way my hospital is going to be able to handle this. There is no way the region is going to be able to handle this.”
State vs. local control over masks intensifies
While experts say that vaccinations are the key to controlling the pandemic and lessening hospitalizations over time, other mitigating actions such as widespread mask wearing can help stop the spread of Covid-19. Yet mandates have been fiercely rejected by Texas state leaders opposing local control and decision-making.
“Attention-grabbing judges and mayors have defied executive orders before, when the pandemic first started, and the courts ruled on our side — the law. I’m confident the outcomes to any suits will side with liberty and individual choice, not mandates and government overreach,” Paxton said.
“The virus is not a political issue, and it’s not an issue that we can resolve by way of ignoring it, and following GA 38 (Abbott’s mask order) would have had the local officials here in Fort Bend County ignoring the virus,” Fort Bend County Attorney Bridgette Smith-Lawson said after a judge granted their emergency health directive request.