Montgomery County seeing record number of hospitalizations amid staffing shortage

County commissioners approved up to $9M to help pay nurses to help staff at overflowing hospitals

More help on the way for struggling hospitals

MONTGOMERY COUNTY – On Friday, the Montgomery County Public Health District tweeted that COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county had reached their highest level yet.

The county’s hospitals had 339 patients with COVID as of Friday, Judge Mark Keough said in a Facebook post. Most of them are unvaccinated.

“Every patient that I’ve seen, me personally, in the emergency department, has been unvaccinated for the past four to six weeks,” said Dr. Casey Patrick, a physician and assistant medical director for the Montgomery County Hospital District EMS.

He said hospital congestion also impacts turnaround time for ambulances.

“Your time to get off of our stretcher and into the emergency department skyrockets and then our trucks can’t get back on the street, our ambulances can’t get back on the street to respond to the next call,” Patrick said.

The state is planning on setting up an antibody infusion center in Conroe. The goal of the treatment facilities is to reduce the burden on hospitals.

On Tuesday, Montgomery County commissioners approved up to $9 million to pay 130 nurses to help staff hospitals overflowing with patients.

County Judge Mark Keough and his staff recently toured St Luke’s, Memorial Hermann and Houston Methodist in The Woodlands.

“We walked down the halls and I’m not exaggerating, I saw people in beds in the hospitals with oxygen,” the judge said in an interview on Tuesday.

“Hospitals have had to convert waiting rooms into patient rooms,” he later wrote on Facebook. “Ninety patients in an ER designed for 20.”

Houston Methodist sent KPRC 2 photos of patients in hallways inside its campus in The Woodlands.

“What you’re seeing in the hallways is due to hospital capacity issues,” the hospital’s spokesperson said.

Baylor St. Luke’s shut down its 24/7 Emergency room in Conroe to shift personnel to its larger campus in The Woodlands “in response to capacity and critical staffing shortages.”

Judge Keough said administrators at several hospitals told him staffing was an issue, and on Tuesday, the county approved a plan to hire 130 nurses “for the next eight weeks” at a cost “not to exceed $9 million.”

Judge Keough said every COVID patient in an ICU in Montgomery County is unvaccinated, along with 91% of non-ICU COVID patients.

Just over 49% of eligible Montgomery County residents have received at least one vaccine shot, the lowest percentage in the Greater Houston region.

“You can go anywhere,” the judge said, “you can go to CVS, you can go to Walmart, they have all the vaccinations that you need.”

The first of several drive-thru vaccine sites in the county will open on Saturday, Aug. 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Magnolia Event Center on FM 1488, Keough wrote.

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