Local hospitals turn to internal surge plans as COVID-19 cases continue to rise


AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Wednesday, Amarillo Public Health Director Casie Stoughton said that the five day COVID-19 new case average is 227.

After hearing that, and Stoughton’s report from Tuesday on the recent numbers, the Chief Medical Officer of Northwest Texas Hospital, Dr. Brian Weis, said that he is feeling extremely anxious.

“We do not have a bed to spare.”

Dr. Weis

Northwest’s Medical Intensive Care Unit has been full of COVID-19 patients for the past two weeks and Dr. Weis said, “We do not have a bed to spare.”

As a result of the recent surge in cases, they have had to physically divide their pediatrics ward and occupy it halfway with adults. With that being done, they can take one of their adult wards and now make it an entire COVID-19 ward.

Dr. Weis stated, “We’re using our internal surge plan to try and keep people in this hospital in this facility, but we’re having to add more and more units to take care of these patients who are infected with COVID.”

BSA has also expanded out of its original COVID unit in the MICU and now into their Coronary Care Unit and into their Surgical Intensive Care Unit. They have also had to expand their Intermediate Care Unit.

Dr. Michael Lamanteer, Chief Medical Officer at BSA, explained, “And in doing so, having to deal with that delicate balance of which patients are able to be in that step-down Intermediate Unit, and which patients need to stay in the highest level of acute care, which is the Critical Care Unit.”

Neither hospital, though has had to send patients out to other facilities, however, they have had to somewhat restrict patients coming in from regional facilities.

This is because of various reasons, including a lack of bed availability, patients already waiting in the ER for beds, and just not an ability to accommodate those transfers in certain situations, depending on that day.

Dr. Weis continued, “So yes, in that sense we’ve had to tell some facilities that right now we just don’t have the capacity to accommodate the patient that you’re asking us to receive from your facility.”

Both Dr. Lamanteer and Dr. Weis said that even with these high numbers of patients in the hospital with COVID-19, thankfully there are fewer patients on ventilators than there were six months ago.

Additionally, in Wednesday’s COVID-19 update, Dr. Weis spoke about his frustrations with the state’s updated formula for calculating the total hospitalization rate.

He said this is because there is a whole population of beds in the hospital that can’t necessarily be used to help them with the COVID-19 surge, yet they are still asked to include them in the denominator of this calculation.

As for the patients, Dr. Weis said those that he has been able to talk to are feeling anxious, depressed, isolated, and tired.

Dr. Weis stated, “and when we talk about the anxiety they feel, what they keep saying is that they’re anxious that we are not taking this, as a community, as seriously as we should. We know that the end game is herd immunity, meaning that we have to have a high percentage of the population who are resistant to the virus.”

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