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Harris Health System requests traveling nurses to help fight COVID-19 surge

HOUSTON – The Harris Health System, which oversees both Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson hospitals, is bringing nurses to Houston to help fight the surge in coronavirus cases. As of July 4, twenty-three traveling nurses have been contracted, according to the Chief Nursing Executive at Harris Health Maureen Padilla.

“We were also able to gain five emergency room nurses. So we have some of them working in our emergency rooms. We were also able to gain three that was labor and delivery focused,” said Padilla. “And one nurse that specializes in dialysis.”

How many more are nurses are needed?

Harris Health is looking to bring in an additional 133 nurses but admits finding help has not been easy.

“Most recently, it’s been more and more difficult to get those contracts because many nurses were pulled to the northeast sections of the country,” Padilla said.

In fact, the majority of the 23 traveling nurses are returning to Texas after being deployed to New York City during their COVID-19 outbreak.

Padilla said she’s hopeful more help will be made available in the coming days.

How does it work?

Eligible nurses join a contact company or agency and get placed in areas of need for a predetermined amount of time.

Once their assignment comes to an end, the contract company will deploy them where most needed.

Are other hospitals in need?

KPRC 2 checked in with several area hospitals.

St. Lukes Health System said they’ve brought in over 125 traveling nurses to their hospitals in the Houston and East Texas area.

KPRC also obtained this statement from Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center:

Memorial Hermann routinely contracts with both local and national agencies to provide temporary or contract workers to fill staffing gaps when we have needs due to openings, and we are doing that today. As we continue to expand our available ICU capacity to help care for the growing number of COVID-19 positive patients in our community and in our facilities, our staffing needs will continue to increase accordingly. However, we are proactively managing these efforts with our staffing agencies to ensure we are able to stay one step ahead of the demand.

Some of these temporary workers are coming to us from out-of-state and others may be local; either way, we are grateful to each of them for their assistance and their service.