Local hospital ICUs near capacity, some elective surgeries canceled as COVID surges

Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital ICU is full, Harris Health says

HOUSTON – Harris Health said Monday that Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital’s ICU is full as of 10 a.m.

The tent buildings KPRC 2 saw placed outside the facility Monday were put up two days ago and are not operational yet.

RELATED: Officials note surge in pediatric COVID-19 cases as ICU beds become limited

RELATED: CHART: Track the number of coronavirus cases, recoveries and deaths in the Greater Houston area

RELATED: 11-month-old girl with COVID-19 airlifted from Houston to hospital 170 miles away in Temple

RELATED: ‘I expect the worst’: A Texas parent worries about sending her children back to school in person

They will be used when needed to hold COVID-19 confirmed or suspected cases. They will not be used to house patients in beds.

KPRC 2 received this information from Harris Health System’s Nicole M. Benningfield:

  • Ben Taub ICU is at 95% capacity, with 27% of ICU patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • LBJ Hospital: LBJ ICU is at 100% capacity, with 63% of ICU patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Total system inpatient capacity is now 25% COVID-19 patients (36% of ICU utilization)
  • Hospital surgery cases at Ben Taub and LBJ are being reviewed for medical necessity, urgent and emergency cases only.

“We are no longer doing elective surgeries and each morning our leaders and the head of surgery review all cases that are scheduled that are urgent or time-sensitive and just the most urgent ones are put on the or schedule and done that day,” said Dr. Ann Barnes, the Executive VP/Chief Medical Officer with Harris Health.

Hospital ICU’s near capacity, elective surgeries canceled as COVID-19 surges

At Houston Methodist hospitals, the ICUs are nearing capacity with a third of the patients being COVID-19 positive.

As of 12 p.m. Monday, the hospital system had 645 COVID-19 patients. The number is going up to about 50 patients per day.

“We anticipate that this one will surpass all three of the other waves,” said Houston Methodist Executive Vice President Roberta Schwartz. “We are opening more and more capacity and beds as we have the staff. It’s stretching our staff.”

Schwartz said they are still able to perform emergency surgeries.

“We have emergent cases that we continue to run and urgent cases that we continue to run,” Schwartz said. “As we can push off cases that needed beds, we have pushed them off or moved them wherever we could to an outpatient environment.”

At United Memorial Medical Center Monday, Dr. Joseph Varon, Chief of Critical Care Services said he thought he had seen the worst of COVID until this past weekend.

“Every single bed that I have is full of patients,” he said.

On Saturday, he said five patients died. All patients were unvaccinated.

“I’ve been in intensive for decades and I have never had so many patients die in one night like Saturday night.”

Texas Children’s Hospital said it currently has more than 35 patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Texas Children’s said it will postpone some of its electives on a case-by-case basis.

Texas Children’s Hospital released the following statement:

“Currently, there are more than 35 pediatric patients hospitalized at Texas Children’s with COVID-19. Additionally, Texas Children’s is postponing some elective procedures on a case-by-case basis. Given this is an ever-changing situation, our teams are meeting daily to assess and prioritize patients’ needs. We have surge plans in place and we are prepared to handle the latest wave of COVID-19 cases combined with a highly unusual summer surge of patients diagnosed with RSV.”

St. Luke’s Health said because of the concern of rising COVID-19 cases, its hospitals will perform urgent and emergent cases as deemed necessary, and will review all other procedures on a case-by-case basis.

St. Luke’s Health released the following statement:

“The safety of our patients and employees is our top priority. We are concerned about the increasing COVID-19 related cases and strongly urge everyone to get vaccinated and follow masking and distancing guidelines. We continue to monitor and manage the increase in hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients. In response to capacity and critical staffing shortages, St. Luke’s Health assesses patient needs and resource availability on a daily basis. We are performing urgent and emergent cases as deemed clinically necessary by our physicians, and are reviewing all other procedures on a case-by-case basis.”

About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.

Award-winning journalist, mother, YouTuber, social media guru, millennial, mentor, storyteller, University of Houston alumna and Houston-native.