coronavirus pandemic

DFW Hospitals See COVID-19 Cases Drop, But More Patients Stay in ICU Longer

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As COVID-19 case numbers drop, doctors at Parkland Hospital are seeing more people who are no longer infected but still too sick to go home.

"We almost have as many patients recovering from COVID in the hospital as we do patients that are here with infectious active COVID, “said Parkland Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang.

Chang says the hospital peaked at roughly 175 active COVID-19 patients three weeks ago and as of Tuesday they have roughly 95. They're delighted by the progress but concerned that ICU numbers are not going down along with the case numbers.

Chang says when someone is admitted for COVID-19, an average stay is roughly one week. When they’re admitted to the ICU, they usually stay around one month. These days, he’s seeing more people on extended stays in the ICU for two to three months.

He says it’s partially due to the delta variant, which is more contagious and more likely to make people sicker.

“I mean, these are these are folks who are a young, 30 and 40-year-old individuals who now can't brush their teeth, because of the ravages of COVID or are now on breathing treatments every single day, require constant levels of oxygen and may need that for the rest of their lives,” said Chang.

Higher rates of patients in critical care are driving demand for specialized staffing.

“I could talk to any hospital, whether it be in the metroplex or in the rural areas, we have 90 member hospitals, I guarantee you the number one priority is staffing,” said Stephen Love, CEO of Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council.

Experts say workers are fatigued and the state is bringing in supplemental staff from other states but that's not sustainable.

“Even though the COVID-19 is coming down as far as hospital census, our overall occupancy is staying the same. So, this is not only a short-term problem, it's a long-term problem over the next year to five years, we've got to look at health care,” Love said.

In the short term, experts say they need more people to get vaccinated or wear masks to reduce the number of patients in need of critical care.

"A lot of these folks that we're we have coming in now, the regret that they have over not having availed themselves of the vaccine and prevented a lot of this, that regret is something that brings tears to all of our caregivers eyes,” said Chang.

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