Tarrant County

Pediatric Hospital Beds, ICUs Full in Tarrant County, Health Director Says

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Hospitals in Tarrant County are “completely full from a pediatric standpoint," according to a Tuesday briefing from the county’s public health director.

Tarrant County Public Health Director Vinny Taneja said there were 41 pediatric COVID-19 patients in Tarrant County -- a decrease from a pandemic high of 48 pediatric patients one day ago.

In Tarrant County, there are more than 400 pediatric hospital beds total. Taneja said Tuesday the number of COVID-19 patients has added to the hospital capacity strain.

“There’s not a single bed available. Even in the pediatric ICUs, there’s not a bed available,” he said. “That’s very concerning because routine stuff still goes on. Kids get sick, they have surgeries, they have other treatments that sometimes need hospitalizations or ICUs. Currently, we’re completely full in Tarrant County.”

The trend in Tarrant County is similar to what other North Texas communities are also experiencing, Taneja said. According to the DFW Hospital Council, there are 94 pediatric COVID-19 patients in North Texas as of Tuesday. Pediatric beds are 95% full and there are no ICU beds remaining, an email from the council reads.

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“Overall, the picture is bleak because if a child needs care, we need to be able to provide that care and that’s hard right now,” Taneja said.

Dr. Suzi Whitworth, medical director of infectious diseases at Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, said the hospital has regular meetings regarding the influx of patients, and staffing levels are constantly monitored.

“We’re staying almost at capacity almost all the time,” Whitworth said. “The staffing is maxed out. The amount of patients we’re seeing in the hospital just for my service is twice as many as we would normally see with the same number of doctors.”

As for capacity, Whitworth said there are a number of contributing factors but “the main reason is the COVID influx of cases.”

“At least half of what we’re seeing are teenagers who have been eligible for vaccines. To my knowledge, we have not a COVID vaccinated teenager in the hospital because they were sick with COVID,” Whitworth said. “We’ve had a special separate intensive care unit created for these kids. We have two-floor units that are almost completely full. We have opened a third-floor unit in case of pop-off reasons, in case if we overflow. RSV is a smaller part of it. That seems to be getting better lately.”

Over the past few weeks, Whitworth said some surgeries deemed medically reasonable to delay were postponed due to ICU capacity.

“When the intensive care unit is full, you can’t do any elective care surgery that requires a patient to spend two to three nights in the intensive care unit. If that can wait until after the surge, you have to do that,” she said. “I’ve said this before, we’ve had plenty of children in the hospital in the ICU alone because one of their parents is on a ventilator somewhere else and the other one is home taking care of sick children or is sick herself. It’s emotionally hard to think through that.”

Whitworth echoed the message of getting vaccinated, if eligible.

“The only way that we’re going to get out of this pandemic is if everyone gets vaccinated. That’s the most important thing you can do,” she said. “When you get yourself vaccinated, you take yourself out of the pool of people who are likely to get COVID and give it to someone else. We have to stop the chain of transmission.”

As of Tuesday, more than 2.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Tarrant County. The county’s vaccine dashboard is expected to provide an update on vaccination rates on Wednesday.

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