DENTON, Texas - Denton County's public health director is reporting ER wait times at its hospitals can be as long as 10 hours or more. That's because they're being flooded by COVID patients.
"One of the most alarming things on hospital capacity that’s happened in every wave and is now happening with omicron is what they call an ER hold," explained County Health Director Matt Richardson.
In short, it means there aren’t enough hospital beds for patients in the emergency room, leaving them in a waiting room for long periods of time.
"Some are hours and some are multiple hours, maybe double-digit hours, in the ER waiting for a staffed bed," Richardson said.
That strain on resources and staff is also impacting Denton County ICUs.
On Tuesday, Richardson detailed his latest discussion with hospital administrators on the issue.
"They reported ICU beds are harder to staff," he said. "They reported in many cases up to 20% absenteeism in their existing staff. That’s a big, big number."
As of Monday, 93% of the county’s ICU beds are full and only six are available countywide.
Using state resources, the Regional Advisory Committee on Trauma has assigned several nurses to Denton County hospitals.
But Richardson says one hospital is still awaiting its allocation of nurses.
"Supplies for testing, supplies for treatments, supplies for hospital beds are declining even though truthfully omicron seems to affect individuals maybe in a lesser fashion," he said.
On a positive note, Richardson says local hospitals seem to have a healthy supply of ventilators right now. And he acknowledges the rapid spread and the high volume of cases with the omicron variant but says its fortunate it’s not severe as delta the variant.
"It may not make people as sick as prior variants, and I think that is good news," he said. "And I think we’re seeing that all across Denton County, across Texas, all across the nation and really all across the world."
Steve Love with the DFW Hospital Council points out a key difference in omicron and delta variants. He says more people who came to the hospital were admitted with delta. But with omicron, more people are being treated and released, putting a heavier strain on outpatient staff than inpatient staff.