DALLAS - A federal disaster response team is on the way to help North Texas hospitals care for COVID-19 patients.
The DFW Metroplex is one of six areas statewide receiving a team to help meet crucial hospital staff shortages. Having enough beds is almost irrelevant if hospitals don’t have enough people to care for patients.
Right now, hospitals are working with the state and federal government to make sure all the right staff is in place to deal with the surge.
“I do know this. As we surge, we are going to have to focus on the workforce,” CEO/President of the DFW Hospital Council, Stephen Love, said.
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FILE - Nurses care for a coronavirus COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit (I.C.U.) at Regional Medical Center on May 21, 2020 in San Jose, California.
Love is now coordinating the arrival of a federal disaster medical response team.
Federal aid comes after Governor Greg Abbott met with Vice President Mike Pence on his June 28 visit to Dallas.
Love said the DFW team will arrive in 24 to 36 hours, and will likely set up near Parkland Hospital.
“Two to three physicians, four to five advanced practitioners, like nurse practitioners, 8-10 nurses, paramedics, and we have requested here in North Texas to try to send fewer paramedics and more nurses. And one to two respiratory therapists,” Love said.
He added that the personnel are coming from different parts of the country and will be distributed based on hospital request.
So far, six hospitals in Region E, which encompasses North Texas, have requested help, but it’s unclear which ones.
“I wouldn’t use the word desperate, but let me just say this, on June 19 in Region E, we had 930 patients in hospitals with COVID,” Love said. “Today we’ve got over 1,900. So, as you can see, we have more than doubled in a three-week period.”
North Texas is only using 39 percent of its ventilators, Love added, and PPE is in adequate supply.
He added that hospitals will also get assistance from the state with supplemental contract workers, as they make do with every available resource and juggle staff to meet today's needs and the surge they worry is coming.
“In talking to most of our large systems this morning, they were handling the staffing internally,” Love said. “They welcome supplemental staffing, but as we look at doubling potentially in the next two weeks, are we are going to need additional staffing? No question about it.”
Generally speaking, a team is likely in place anywhere from 14 to 28 days, but Love said another team can rotate in so the necessary workforce is in place for an extended period of time, if needed.
“The water is rising a bit, so everyone is trying to anticipate needs and get ahead of it,” said Rick Antonisse, with the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council.
Antonisse is facilitating the deployment of 120 nurses and respiratory specialists activated by the state.
“The staffing agency is actually building those resources. They recruit and bring their people in from all around the state, as well as other areas around the country,” he added.
Hospitals are already making requests for help.
An email from the CEO of Dallas Regional Medical Center in Mesquite states that the increased volume of COVID patients is depleting staff, saying quote, “As a result, we have reached out to the state and they will be sending a strike force of 19 ICU nurses and several respiratory therapists to help our staff and give our staff some relief.”
A staff member said the hospital has already nearly doubled bed capacity by putting a second bed in single bed rooms.