Amarillo hospitals: staff morale suffering with more COVID patients

Coronavirus

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo hospital leaders said on Wednesday that their staff morale is suffering as more patients are admitted with COVID-19.

During the City of Amarillo’s COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, hospital officials said Northwest Texas Hospital had 46 patients with COVID-19, 26 of which were in the ICU, and 11 on ventilators.

At BSA Hospital, they had 78 COVID-19 patients, 32 of which were in the ICU, and 22 on ventilators. BSA reported 26 out of 45 ventilators were in use.

Both hospitals are receiving some staffing reinforcements from the State of Texas, and working to bring in more nurses. However, the strain on staff remains.

“Obviously, we have folks that are working lots of hours. We have folks that are putting themselves at risk every day caring for patients that have COVID-19, in addition to many other patients that have other significant and severe illnesses that are oftentimes difficult to manage, and exhausting, in terms of that ongoing need for more support,” said Dr. Michael Lamanteer, the chief medical officer at BSA Health System.

Dr. Lamanteer said he and Dr. Brian Weis, the chief medical officer at Northwest Texas Healthcare System, are both asking staff members to work extra shifts, providing additional compensation to make it worth their while.

“But there’s only so much you can ask for someone who’s worked many shifts in a row. It’s exhausting physically and mentally,” said Dr. Lamanteer. “When you’re working that many hours, it is very taxing on you, and also your families. And I think that affects morale adversely.”

Dr. Weis said restricted hospital visitation is adding further burden for nurses.

“They’re already exhausted because now they’re kind of surrogate family members for these patients who cannot receive visitors. So we’re struggling with morale,” Dr. Weis said. “We have nurses that, this is round number four for them with this virus and that is tough to deal with. So yeah, that’s we’re doing everything we can to try and maintain that morale, but it’s tough going forward.”

According to Dr. Lamanteer, many patients are continuing to come in who were not vaccinated.

“Then when we see individuals that continue to come into the hospital and are having severe consequences of COVID, and they’re not taking the personal accountability and responsibility to get vaccinated, and they end up taxing the healthcare system,” said Dr. Lamanteer. “It’s frustrating because we know there’s a method by which we can prevent this illness from causing such severe disease and the vaccine is the tool to do that.”

Dr. Lamanteer continued, “Millions of people have been vaccinated, and have been vaccinated safely. And again, it’s a situation where if we had more folks doing that, I think we’d be in a much better situation than we are in right now.”

Amarillo City Manager, Jared Miller, shared a story from a family member who he said is a physician in another part of Texas facing similar issues with morale suffering.

“He said it’s like they’re treating an entire hospital full of critical car crash victims, and none of them were wearing seatbelts,” Miller said. “It’s hard to see, and the only thing I could tell him was, ‘Keep your heads up. Keep your and your team’s head up.’ We need to, they need to.”

On Wednesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases and 147 deaths.

DSHS tweeted, saying: “Hospital capacity concerns worsening. Fatalities are increasing faster. The Delta variant has Texas in one of its worst fights all pandemic.”

According to DSHS, Texas is averaging 13,457 new cases and 100 deaths each day, based on the 7-day average. The department also reported 12,402 current hospitalizations across the state.

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