AUSTIN (KXAN) — As COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas spike, we’ve been digging through the layers of bureaucracy for how hospitals report their capacity data to state and local government.
For example, Austin Public Health says it asks local hospitals to provide specific data on available beds, ICU beds and ventilators, but a department spokesperson tells us the data the city is getting from the hospitals is “inconsistent.”
APH says that’s why it won’t release the raw data of local hospital bed availability to KXAN.
“We do not yet have a data feed for all of the hospitals in the MSA to accurately determine daily occupancy and capacity,” the spokesperson said. “We are working on a reliable data feed on hospital, ICU and ventilator capacity to display publicly.
KXAN found the reporting of the hospital situation across Texas is the same, with the raw data subject to what each government agency wants to do with it.
For example, APH shows a 7-day moving average of hospitalizations, which is not enough information to know how serious the capacity problem is.
The state of Texas does provide the number of beds and ventilators available, but the data is only as specific as an 11-county cumulative total in the Central Texas Region.
Each hospital reports this information to a Department of State Health Services (DSHS) regional council daily.
Hospitals provide DSHS daily updates on metrics such as available and occupied beds and ICU beds, available and in-use ventilators, number of COVID-19 positive patients in general and ICU beds, and emergency room visits.
KXAN is requesting those numbers from the state, at the hospital level.
Last week, Ascension rejected claims that Dell Seton Medical Center was at its capacity and that patients were being transferred to other hospitals.
Through a source, KXAN obtained a message from a Dell Seton ER nurse, among the latest being sent to our team over capacity concerns at the hospitals.
It reads in part, “Every admission I’ve had for the last 3 shifts has been transferred out to other hospitals.”
Austin Public Health told us last week it is finalizing plans for a temporary hospital that would take up to 1,500 people, bringing them in 100 at a time.
We asked for the capacity breakdown of Ascension Seton, St. David’s and Baylor Scott & White hospitals.
A spokesperson for the three healthcare systems told KXAN, “We will continue to refer local media outlets to Austin Public Health in response to inquiries on this topic.”