‘Breaking the seams’: West Texas hospitals have been pushed to the limit in the unprecedented wave of Covid-19

The acute care nurse in Odessa, Texas, was contemplating the emotional arc of the coronavirus pandemic, which began with a sense of loneliness but turned into exasperation.

She said, “At first it was, ‘Thank you very much, you are on the front lines, and we appreciate what you are doing.’ And now, I mean, I’m getting threats.”

Mourning is often the receiving end of frustrated phone calls from family members of patients who are not permitted to visit the hospital or feel they are not doing enough.

Al-Haddad said, “I think it is sad.” “We’re trying to help, we’re trying to do the common good. I want people to know that.”

It was an astonishing call for civility as the spread of Covid-19 continues to deteriorate.

Broken seams

While scenes from New York City and other major cities dominated the novel coronavirus earlier this year, the pandemic has now infiltrated smaller Texas communities, sweeping hospitals in the most unexpected places – from sparsely populated oil fields in West Texas to the desert. – The El Paso region.

“There were a few times in the summer that we were pushed to the limits,” said Morning, recalling the July-August troop surge. “But now in the past few weeks, we’ve been … getting rid of the seams.”

At the Odessa Regional Medical Center, where Mourning works, the neonatal intensive care unit has once turned into the Covid-19 intensive care unit for adults. The hospital this week is treating 28 patients with Covid-19 as of Thursday. But most importantly, the center has exceeded its maximum capacity in the ICU and in a separate medical augmentation area for Covid-19 patients as well. The hospital had to open a “surplus” unit earlier this week in a separate building just to keep up with it.

Closed storefronts, hospitals and mobile morgues: Residents of El Paso have been hit hard by the coronavirus

“The only space that is not full right now are the corridors,” said Dr. Rohith Saravanan, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

He said, “For every patient you see here, there are many other people who are positive outside the hospital who could have used some care, but there is no place.” “The most important people are accepted and the rest are sent home.”

Saravanan said some of these patients are returning home with oxygen – something the hospital usually does not do.

According to Saravanan, the positive rate for those tested by two hospitals in the city ranges between 35% and 40%. Ictor County, where Odessa is located, was unable to update the Covid-19 statistics online In about a week’s time because the data entry team is in isolation after exposure, according to the county health department.

As of Thursday, the two hospitals in Odessa had nearly 130 Covid-19 patients – nearly double the nearly 70 who were hospitalized here at the height of the crisis this summer.

Denise Morning teams up with other staff in the crowded Covid-19 emergency room.

Statewide, hospitalizations have not reached levels since this summer, but they are steadily increasing in trend. At some point in late July, nearly 11,000 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Texas. That number dropped to around 3,000 in September and back to nearly 8,000 this week.

The average number of hospitalizations in the United States now stands at 72,120 cases due to Covid-19 over the past seven days, an increase of nearly 20% from just last week. The scale has never been higher.

Saravanan said Odessa hospitals are working with city officials to order a mobile mortuary. He said there were discussions to set up a tent to treat patients near the airport between Odessa and Midland.

The state sent additional medical personnel to Odessa and helped expand the hospital’s capacity. But Saravanan said he was still worried about what was to come.

He said, “We don’t have good control over that.” “It’s definitely something that scares us when we think about where this community is headed.”

The scary word is positive.

The pandemic has also caused alarm in the farming community of Lamsa, Texas – a small town located 80 miles northeast of Odessa. Home to just over 9,000 people, Lamesa is known for its annual Fried Chicken Festival, and its high school sports teams are known as Golden Tornadoes.

Lamesa has all the charm of a small town in West Texas, but within the hospital walls are the same scenes unfolding across the country, even if on a smaller scale. The Hospital of Medical Arts began preparing for one or two Covid-19 patients about a year ago. Now, the 21-bed facility contains a full 10-bed unit for virus-infected patients – consuming about half of the building’s total capacity. On Thursday morning, the hospital had to add two more Covid-19 patients in excess space.

Dr Anthony Gibson, director of the hospital’s emergency room, said small communities have the time advantage. They are facing this wave nearly a year into the pandemic, so they are benefiting from treatments and treatments that have already been discovered.

The problem, according to Gibson, is not how to treat Covid-19 patients but how to treat those with different medical needs.

El Paso inmates volunteer to transport bodies of Covid-19 victims at a medical examiner's office

“Because there are so many (Covid-19 patients), it takes a lot of resources away from other problems people have,” he said, referring to common concerns such as strokes, cardiovascular disease and seasonal illnesses. “We are approaching winter, and this is the time of year when hospitals are busy.”

Shelly Barron, the music director at her small church in Lamsa, said she started getting a fever at her bell practice in September. A few days later, she was hospitalized with Covid-19 and double pneumonia. Barron, 70, was spending approximately 10 days at Medical Arts and another three days in a hospital in Lubbock during two different stays.

Barron described the ordeal as a “very humbling” experience. She urges others to take Covid-19 seriously.

“The word scary is (positive),” she said, adding that six people in the bell choir and the music team have tested positive for the virus. In general, her church has witnessed two deaths. “These things are real. They are scary.”

“We receive patients from everywhere”

Located about an hour’s drive south of Lubbock, Lamesa is a larger community that has seen an influx of state resources to limit the increase in cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. Overall, the state has sent more than 700 medical personnel to the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains region, as well as 7.4 million masks, 3.9 million gloves, and more than a million gowns and coats, according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s Office.

In the small town of Lamsa there is only one hospital.  Covid-19 patients occupy more than half of the hospital's 21 beds.

More than 340 miles west, El Paso is still struggling with a two-week run, with nearly 1 in 25 people suffering from the virus. The state has set up tents outside the main hospital and has opened a temporary medical unit in the conference center. The medical examiner’s office is surrounded by mobile morgue, and local guests are paid to assist in the transportation of the bodies.

Wanda Helgesen is the executive director of the Regional Border Advisory Board and helps coordinate resources for the Covid-19 response effort in the El Paso area. It said district hospitals have added 600 beds and flights of more than 80 ICU patients to other Texas communities.

She said, “Never think it can’t happen to you.” “Our events happened very quickly. We had a very fast ascent, and although we were planning, I don’t think we were planning to make it that fast.”

It’s a situation that medical professionals in other societies hope to avoid. Odessa and Midland are two of the largest cities in the vast West Texas region, and their hospitals receive Covid-19 patients from outside their county boundaries.

“We receive patients from everywhere,” said Dr. Saravanan, chief medical officer at the Odessa Regional Medical Center. This includes patients from the Texas and Mexico borders and from New Mexico.

All she and her colleagues want to do is care for their community, a mourning practitioner nurse said, but people are desperate to return the favor.

“People are not taking the precautions they need. Yes, we are on the front lines here in the hospital, but the real frontline is in the streets, in groceries. Wash your hands. Wear masks. Stay away,” she said. He said. “The little time and effort it takes outside here is worth it, because once you’re here … wearing a mask is better than putting a tube down your throat. I promise.”

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