‘We're at a Critical Stage:' DFW Hospital Council President Says of Highest ICU Bed Occupancy

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ICU beds in North Texas are filling up, people are experiencing extremely long wait times, and the CEO of the DFW Hospital Council has called the situation dire.

Dallas County resident Curtis McLean said his uncle called him Saturday with ulcer pain wanting to go to the hospital.

“I just threw on some clothes, masked up and I went and picked him up from his home,” said McLean.

He said they arrived at a Dallas hospital at about 11:20 that morning, and hours passed before he’d hear from his uncle again.

“I think it was around about 5:30,” said McClean. “He sends me a text message and then he calls, and he’s getting kind of antsy because he hasn’t seen a doctor yet.”

A few more hours passed. By then, his uncle had made up his mind that he’d waited long enough. He left the hospital before being seen by a doctor.

“He had just left the hospital and he was going to take the DART rail on home because he never was called, and he was tired of waiting,” he said.

Stephen Love, president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council, said North Texas has entered a phase of the pandemic never seen before. Love said, as of Tuesday afternoon, just 46 staffed adult ICU beds were available within Trauma Service Area E, a region that includes much of Dallas-Fort Worth.

tsa region map
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TSA regions in North Texas

“We exceeded 4,000 COVID-19 hospital patients. It’s the highest I’ve seen it,” said Love. “This is critical. And what we’re very worried about is we haven’t even seen the impact on hospitalizations as a result of the religious holidays at the end of December and of New Year.”

Love would not comment on any particular hospital, nor specific claims coming from patients about their experiences. He said all hospitals are working to see both COVID and non-COVID patients, even if it means sending them to what he calls “sister hospitals” within the system.

“As you know, our volumes are increasing. As you know, we’re seeing more patients. As you know, our emergency rooms are packed with people that are exhibiting symptoms of COVID and we have to segregate them,” said Love. “So, people are going to have to be patient.”

Love said there might be instances where traditional recovery rooms could be converted into ICU rooms if they can be staffed.

“It’s quite serious and we’re at a critical stage at this point,” said Love.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said people should not let up on masking, handwashing and social distancing because a vaccine has arrived.

“The decisions you make today will determine how many people are diagnosed with COVID and end up in our hospitals in about two weeks,” said Jenkins. “If we don’t do something to radically flatten the curve, we’re going to be out of ICU beds.”

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

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