AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As respiratory viruses continue to circulate, health leaders said on Wednesday they are putting a strain on Amarillo hospitals.
On Wednesday afternoon, officials from the Amarillo Public Health Department and Amarillo hospitals updated the public about the ongoing threat of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, the flu, and RSV. They met via a Zoom call, much as they did during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.
At Northwest Texas Hospital and BSA Hospital, chief medical officers said these viruses are putting pressure on their emergency, hospital bed capacity, and staffing resources.
“What we’re seeing over the last couple of days is that these emergency rooms are seeing over 200% of the number of patients that they were originally designed to see,” said Dr. Brian Weis at NWTH. “And that’s very concerning, mostly because first, it overloads our staff that are at those hospitals, but secondly, when you’re hitting 200% of our capacity, you actually physically overload the building.”
Dr. Weis said Northwest has also been close to capacity for pediatric beds for the past two weeks.
At BSA Hospital, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Lamanteer said on Wednesday morning, they had 18 admission holds in the ER.
“That is a very high number. That is not normal for us here at BSA to have that many patients waiting for admission beds,” said Dr. Lamanteer. “And again, it’s because of the high census, it’s because of the demand on that inpatient service in need.”
Lamanteer said hospitals are still facing staffing shortages as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and continue to contract travel nurses to help. Plus, Dr. Weis said NWTH is dealing with several staff members calling in sick.
Amarillo Public Health Authority, Dr. Todd Bell, said unless you have severe respiratory symptoms like difficulty breathing, discoloration, and dehydration, call your primary care doctor or go to urgent care instead of the ER.
“Our strain on the healthcare system is when we have folks with mild or moderate disease that are seeking care like at emergency rooms, and places that are really designed for higher acuity for more sick patients, patients with chest pain or strokes,” Dr. Bell said. “We need to make sure that we have open access for those folks with severe illness, that they’re able to get in and see their physician in those emergency settings in a rapid manner.”
Health leaders also encouraged people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu to stay safe, in addition to practicing good hygiene like handwashing and covering coughs and sneezes.