"Surge capacity" taxing local hospitals

Driscoll Children's Hospital
Posted at 1:51 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 19:15:47-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Nueces County has 185 people in the hospital with COVID-19 related conditions on Thursday, a more than 400 percent increase since last week.

With hospitalizations increasing exponentially, local hospitals are nearing what’s called "surge capacity," and public health officials say there are plans in place to manage the demand.

“Any type of a surge, you have these plans, and they’re different depending on what the disease is,” said Corpus Christi-Nueces Co. Public Health Director Annette Rodriguez.

But the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything hospitals have seen. Since June 25th, COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 414.6 percent in Nueces County, with a more than 362.5 percent jump in ICU cases.

“About half of those individuals (in ICU) are actually on a ventilator, struggling to breathe,” said Rodriguez.

Concerning numbers, which have hospitals checking their plans. Surge plans normally include sending patients to sister hospitals, but right now that’s not an option.

“In this instance, that’s not something we can do,” said Rodriguez. “There are no sister hospitals out there that aren’t struggling with the same struggles we’re having.”

Neither CHRISTUS Spohn nor Doctors Regional were able to provide numbers on available bed space, or at what point they would have to send patients to other hospitals.

As adult hospitals fill up, Driscoll Children’s Hospital is willing to help lighten the load.

“If push came to shove, we could staff another 50 or so additional beds,” said Dr. Mary Dale Peterson, Driscoll Children’s Hospital Exec. V.P. & Chief Operating Officer. “We do have all the critical-care capabilities as well.”

DCH is also willing to and raise its maximum patient age from 21 to 26, and has a floor reserved for COVID-19 patients.

However, the increase in cases and hospitalizations has Rodriguez worried.

“That’s very concerning; not just to public health," she said. "That should be concerning to the whole community."

State officials recently signed off a plan to use part of the old CHRISTUS Spohn Memorial as a COVID-19 unit, but since the hospital hasn’t treated patients in years, it will take time to get that unit up-and-running.