Officials prep alternative hospital plans as COVID-19 cases surge to all-time highs

HOUSTON – In late March, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner took an aggressive and early approach to the coronavirus pandemic, as new cases spike then flattened.

However, now officials express concern as hospitalizations increase and daily count totals surge to all-time highs.

“We are identifying several facilities that were hospitals, that are no longer hospitals but we can stand them back up very, very quickly,” Turner said.

The Greater Houston area, and Texas overall, is dealing with a greater hospitalization surge due to COVID-19 patients.

When KPRC 2 Investigates asked Dr. Joseph’s Varon of United Memorial Medical Center how many other facilities like his are needed in this area?

Varon quickly responded: “Wow, that is a great question.”

It is a challenge to get a clear understanding of just how profound the impact is in the Houston area may be by this invisible killer.

At UMMC, Varon and his team developed a COVID-19 unit early on. This week, they added 32 more beds.

“We were able to retrofit our facility in 10 days,” he said.

As the numbers rise, so has the concern for alternate medical facilities.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo tweeted Wednesday that NRG is ready to deploy. The city of Houston also identified and prepped a couple of closed hospitals weeks ago, Turner previously announced.

“We would forward that on predominantly to SETRAC and the Texas Medical Center, so that if individual hospitals wanted to take advantage of it, they would have that information,” said Dr. David Persse of the Houston Health Department.

Persse said that this was a big help in the process.

“Theoretically it’s a big help. Back then there wasn’t really the need for it. But as things have changed, it could potentially be a big help now,” he said.

However, while space is the desire by many, Persse and Varon agree that you need medical professionals behind whatever space is created.

“I can have a million beds if you want today, if I don’t have the personnel, it’s worthless,” said Varon.

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