North Texas hospitals could receive federal help as COVID-19 cases surge

Hospitals in North Texas may soon get help from the federal government to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

It's a situation that's unfolding as hospitals begin surge plans to treat the increased number of coronavirus patients. Right now, there appear to be enough beds but a shortage of staff.

San Antonio is being sent 50 medical personnel, including ER and critical care nurses and respiratory specialists, at the request of FEMA. North Texas could also soon be receiving support.

The DFW Hospital Council is preparing to learn Wednesday whether military medical personnel will come to North Texas for support. The Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team is coordinating.

It’s a situation that’s already happening in San Antonio. The Department of Defense deployed about 50 medical personnel to support doctors there.

“The sheer number of patients may outstretch our capacity to effectively and safely care for patients,” said Dallas County Medical Society President Dr. Mark Casanova.

He says DFW hospitals probably have enough beds, but having enough healthy physicians able to treat patients is another concern.

“A lot of that just depends on the staffing. Sometimes, you can have an empty bed,” Casanova said. “But if our staffing ratios are such that we don’t have the nurse or the physician ready to care for that patient, we need to wait until we have that member ready to serve those patients on the floor.”

Hospitals have been moving patients among health systems to try to balance capacity.

One ER doctor, who spoke to FOX 4 under the condition of anonymity, says they have tried transferring patients to other hospitals, but there is still not enough staff.

Casanova says hospitals are also now backfilling support, moving ER doctors into intensive care.

“We’re going to care for folks and we’re doing it to the best of our abilities,” he said. “But we’re doing it under dire circumstances.”