Dallas County

Dallas' Busiest COVID-19 Unit Expects No Relief From Restrictions

Trauma Service Area E has seen 15% or more of its hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients for five straight days

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While local hospital leaders expect new COVID-19 restrictions by the end of the week, they may not help ease strain inside the area's busiest COVID-19 unit.

Days following Thanksgiving, Parkland Hospital's COVID unit had 130-145 coronavirus patients.

While the number is steady and manageable, Senior Vice President of Nursing and Surgical Services Samantha Rowley said staffing crunches were contributing to a tired and overworked health team.

It's the same health team, she said, that managed the summer peak of COVID-19 cases.

"People are having a difficult time wrapping their head around that over the next six to eight weeks, there's a possibility that this is going to be a rougher ride than July or August was," Rowley said.

Restrictions on elective surgeries that go into effect when COVID-19 patients make up more than 15% of capacity for seven straight days will provide little relief, as Parkland is a county hospital that conducts few elective surgeries happen.

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If a 15% COVID-19 patient population doesn't sound like a lot, DFW Hospital Council President W. Stephen Love said otherwise.

"You've got to realize, that's a very intense 15%. Lots of labor, lots of resources, lots of PPE and of course, the bed capacity. Here, you have to isolate those patients and have them in COVID units, so when you think of it in that context, it's more than you think," Love said.

The needs of COVID-19 patients vary to the extreme.

Physicians and health care workers of all specialties are needed, at times, on the unit.

Take, for example, the extreme variation in care for COVID-19 patients who are pregnant and those whose only symptoms were COVID-19 induced heart attacks.

The unit provides ample challenges for workers, who are at the front of a battle against a disease they cannot stop.

"How do you keep convincing these folks to come back every day and fight the same battle, knowing they may see multiple deaths in that shift, multiple families have to say goodbye and work the hardest you've ever worked because these patients are super sick, some of the sickest patients we have ever seen," Rowley said.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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