Medical officials warn of staffing shortage as COVID-19 cases, hospitalization rise in Houston

HOUSTON – As Governor Greg Abbott announces another record-breaking day in new cases of coronavirus, medical professionals are asking for the public’s help in flattening the curve. Lines for testing continue to grow and hospitals are nearing capacity.

Local medical professionals are concerned with the lack of personnel to treat sick patients.

As cases soar statewide, and in the Greater Houston area, there is intense pressure on the medical system—as doctors, nurses and volunteers struggle to keep up with demand. The Texas Medical Center’s ICU is at 97% capacity. Leading physicians at the TMC sent an open letter to the community asking the public for help.

“We’re fighting a war against an invisible enemy, and you do what you have to do to take care of patients,” said United Memorial Medical Center Chief of Staff Dr. Joseph Varon.

As for testing, many people report longer than usual wait times.

“I got in line at 6 a.m. and somebody took my information at 2 p.m., and I was actually tested at 2:45 p.m.,” said resident Francesca Rainosek.

Rainosek expressed concern over testing conditions and said that there were few staff members able to work on a large number of cars wanting to get drive-thru testing at the HCC Southeast Campus testing site at 6815 Rustic St..

“There were no bathrooms. Nobody could leave. There were elderly people. There were children,” Rainosek said.

United Memorial Medical Center has tested more than 80,000 people in the last 97 days.

Officials said they want to test as many people as possible. But with this growing demand, staff members and volunteers are working as fast as they can with the resources that are available.

“Now all of a sudden, everybody is panicking,” Varon said. “Everybody wants to be tested, and they all want to be tested at once and they all want results right away when they don’t understand that this is a process and it’s a process that we’re trying to do with the best of our abilities.”

Varon and his team have been working around the clock for nearly 100 days and counting. He said his staff continues to do so in hopes to help give the best care.

On Wednesday, United Memorial’s ICU added 12 beds.

However, Varon and other medical professionals are asking for the public’s cooperation. Houston-area doctors are worried about a staffing shortage, especially if the trend continue at high rates.

“We have a problem. And the problem is you can have all the beds in the world you want but if you don’t have the healthcare providers to help out—nurses, the person that cleans, radiology tech—sometimes we get into a bit of a bind and we’re doing our very best,” Varon said.

Varon said if everyone makes an effort to socially distance themselves and wash their hands, this can flatten the curve so that the medical community can treat everyone who needs help.