DALLAS - Some hospitals in Denton County have requested help from the state, asking for dozens of healthcare workers come to help take care of the surging number of COVID-19 patients.
Area health officials say for the second day in a row on Wednesday, virus patients occupy more than 15% of hospital beds for the North Texas 19-county hospital region.
Local health officials say the state's numbers do not show that yet because they lag behind. But those are the numbers that matter for potential rollbacks that come with the governor's threshold of 15% or greater sustained for seven days.
Tarrant, Dallas and Collin County all either set or tied pandemic highs on Wednesday for the number of virus patients in hospitals.
Multiple hospitals are making public pleas asking people to wear masks and keep distance going into the Thanksgiving holiday.
Late Wednesday, the president of Texas Health Rockwall said they have 72 people needing beds in the 60-bed hospital. Local hospital leaders only expect more stories like that in the coming days.
An hour’s drive west of Fort Worth, Palo Pinto General Hospital in Mineral Wells is not out of reach of COVID-19’s grasp.
Ross Korkmas is the hospital’s CEO. He used the hospital’s Facebook page Tuesday to make a plea.
“I am reaching out to ask for your help,” he wrote. “Our COVID unit is full and we have the highest number of patients in the hospital that anyone can recall. We are struggling to transfer patients to higher levels of care in the metroplex.”
“We’re already starting to see the difficulty in transferring patients in the metroplex. The hospitals in the metroplex are starting to get overwhelmed as well. And I can’t say that for all of them, but some of them are. And as they get overwhelmed, there is a trickle-down effect to medium-size hospitals, small hospitals that they can’t get patients out,” Korkmas said. “The issues that hospitals are seeing is we can get our hands on equipment, but it’s having enough nursing staff to take care of the patients.”
That concern about staff exists across North Texas.
At least four Denton County hospitals have asked the state for additional personnel totaling 134 people.
According to Denton County, Texas Health Presbyterian Denton requested 26 and got some last week.
Carrollton Regional Medical Center requested 42. It was approved for 22 expected to start next week.
“Don’t lose sight of the workforce. That’s what we’re the most concerned about,” said Stephen Love with the DFW Hospital Council. “Our workforce is tired, fatigued. Many are working double shifts. We really have to take care of our workforce as we move through this increased surge.”
Unlike the spike that taxed New York hospitals earlier this year, finding staff to help isn’t so easy this time.
“Everyone in the country is in the same situation we’re in so that temporary nursing staff is hard to come by,” Love said.
Now more than ever, hospitals are turning on the power of people to help with the community: the new frontline.
“Nobody wants to wear a mask, but I promise you that the thirty minutes you have to wear it walking into Walmart doesn’t compare to the 13 or 14 hours that a nurse has to wear it here at our hospital or a respiratory therapist or physician,” Korkmas said. “If we can stop this, we can take that burden off of healthcare workers.”
Thankfully, Palo Pinto General was able to discharge some patients from its COVID unit Wednesday afternoon freeing up a couple beds. But Korkmas says there's a lot of concern over what things are going to look like in a few weeks if people have disregarded health guidelines for Thanksgiving.