Health Care Leaders Keep Close Eye on Surge Capacity as North Texas COVID-19 Cases Climb

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Every day for nearly two weeks, Dallas County has reported at least 1,000 new COVID-19 cases in its daily report. The soaring case numbers in North Texas have had an undeniable impact on our local hospital systems.

Stephen Love, president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council said North Texas hospitals have surge capacity, for now, but the rate at which the virus is spreading in our region was worrisome.

"Just about all the major systems started initially with their COVID expectations and COVID units,” Love said. “What we are concerned with is, as you know, we had a doubling effect. In fact, more than doubling in the last three weeks.”

According to a July 9 study from UT Southwestern Medical Center, COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Texas increased by 180% compared to the previous month. Love said roughly 74% of DFW ICU beds were in use. As of July 13, Love said 43% of ventilators are in use and 57% are available.

“When we more than doubled in the last three weeks, many hospitals have taken beds and added to that COVID capacity,” he said. “And that’s what you would call the initial stages of surge planning. It’s not like where you’re adding beds in other places on the campus.”

And then there are the front-line workers. Any surge in COVID-19 cases will impact the workforce, which is an integral part of battling the pandemic.

“Do we have surge capacity? Yes, we do,” he said. “Can we add additional beds? Yes, we can. But you’ve got to have a workforce to staff those. And you’ve got to have a workforce that’s not fatigued.”

Tracking COVID-19 Cases in North Texas Counties

NBC 5 is tracking the number of COVID-19 related cases, recoveries and deaths in North Texas counties. Choose a county and click on a city or town to see how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting your area.

Cases are cumulative by day and are subject to change, dependent on each county health department's reporting schedule and methodology. Data may be reported county-wide, by city or town, or not at all. Cases, recoveries and death counts in 'unspecified' categories are used as placeholders and reassigned by their respective counties at a later date.

Data: County Health Departments, NBC 5 Staff
Nina Lin/NBC

Parkland Hospital has already said it expected the help of supplemental hospital staff from the state.

Chief Nursing Officer, Donna Richardson, released the following statement.

“Parkland Health & Hospital System is receiving medical staff assistance provided through the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council supporting the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) by coordinating the deployment of supplemental hospital staffing. Additional staff is our primary need as we see increased hospitalizations and we operate COVID-19 testing sites throughout the community. We anticipate any staff the state sends to help us will serve in a variety of roles. We are still awaiting final information on the number and types of medical staff that will be coming to Parkland.”

Texas Health Resources released a statement addressing elective procedures amid the COVID-19 surge. The statement reads in part:

“Last week we paused the scheduling of non-time-urgent elective surgeries and procedures that require a hospital stay at our wholly-owned hospitals. Procedures that have already been scheduled will continue at this time… By taking a temporary pause in non-time-urgent cases that require hospitalization, we are able to further maintain bed capacity to care for COVID-19 patients and those who need other emergent care in our community.”

Love said the council was keeping an eye on the rate at which the virus doubles for guidance on how North Texas hospitals will be impacted.

“We better be ready. We better be prepared,” Love said. “And this is really beginning to take a toll on the hospitals, especially if we double again in two weeks.”

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