It is all but certain that in Texas more people will be in need of emergency care than hospitals have room for.
This week, hospitals began postponing operations that are not immediately medically necessary and placed multiple beds inside hospital rooms to prepare for those showing serious symptoms of COVID-19.
It is estimated the state of Texas has only 2.9 hospital beds per 1,000 people residing in the state, according to state regulators.
To put this in perspective, Italy, whose hospital system has been overwhelmed by the coronavirus and whose death toll has overtaken China’s, has 3.2 hospital beds per 1,000 people residing in the country.
By contrast, South Korea’s daily rate of new cases has been falling. The government there has been thoroughly testing its population for the virus, and South Korea has more than 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people.
Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show anywhere from 160 million to 214 million people could be infected in the United States over the course of the pandemic, which could last over a year, the New York Times reported. Of those, 2.4 million to 21 million people are likely to get seriously ill enough to be hospitalized. The death toll in the U.S. is predicted to be 200,000 to 1.7 million.
Looking forward, if more people need emergency care than hospitals have room for, the mortality rate of COVID-19 will probably spike in areas of Texas where hospitals’ resources are overextended.
Over the past decade, hospital capacity has worsened, due to an increase of hospital closures across the state. Since 2010, more hospitals have closed in Texas than in any other state.
However, recently shuttered hospitals provide an opportunity to expand care.
In his virtual town hall meeting on Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott addressed the state’s capacity to treat those infected by using recently closed hospitals as alternative care facilities.
“I have visited with the CEOs of all the major hospital groups in the state of Texas to do, basically, an inventory check: how many beds do they have, what is their bed capacity, what is their excess capacity, and then what are the alternatives if they get filled up. The first alternative [is] medical tents, second alternative, recently departed healthcare facilities, or hospitals, of which there are an abundance of in and around the state of Texas, [and] further down the chain are hotel rooms.”
On Sunday, Abbott addressed the state’s next steps.
“We will this week be standing up additional hospital, medical-provided health care facilities in the event that they are going to be needed to respond to an increased number of patients who test positive for COVID-19,” Abbott said.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Abbott announced one of his executive orders was to stop all non-medically necessary surgeries to free up beds and ventilators during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Government and community action in the following weeks will determine the impact of COVID-19 on this state and on this nation. Health officials and government representatives must work in tandem to face this scaling pandemic.