‘I’ve never seen anything like this’: ER doctor says hundreds of patients are waiting to be admitted into hospitals, but there are no beds

Some patients are being sent out of state

HOUSTON – Emergency room doctors in Southeast Texas say they are running out of hospital beds, and some patients are waiting hours, sometimes days to be admitted into a hospital.

“Are there patients dying because of this that might not have died? Absolutely, yes,” said Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council CEO, Darrell Pile. “I am very concerned about the fatalities that are about to happen.”

As of Friday afternoon, Pile says 482 patients were waiting for hospital beds in his 25-county region. He said 211 of those patients are COVID-19 positive.

An additional 120 patients are waiting for an ICU bed. Of those patients, 65 are COVID-19 positive.

“The poor nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists can’t see all the patients that are mounting in the lobby, and now we have patients waiting in parking lots and we have patients waiting in the back of ambulances in parking lots. It’s a gridlock at the emergency department level,” Pile told KPRC 2.

The SETRAC CEO says the Southeast Texas region is short about 2,000 nurses, which he says is the main reason behind the bed shortage.

“It’s a situation where a patient, after waiting hours, may get into an emergency department room with a curtain drawn and be assessed and be decided they need to be admitted, but there’s nowhere to go, and that’s where they stay for hours and hours and maybe days,” said Pile.

In some cases, he says patients are being flown out of state to places like Louisiana, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota and Minnesota, instead of going to the Texas Medical Center.

“We are used to being the place where patients fly to. They come here,” he said.

At Altus Baytown, a freestanding ER, Dr. Robert Velarde said they are facing something they have never seen before.

“For us, this is the worst surge since COVID has started,” Dr. Velarde told KPRC 2. “It’s hectic. It’s tiring. It’s stressful.”

Due to a lack of hospital beds, if patients need to be admitted into a hospital for more specialized care, he says the delay is overwhelming.

“We are trying to treat the patient who should be in the ICU in the emergency room. They are not getting the full supervision or maintenance they need,” he said.

Dr. Velarde says his ER staff has spent hours on the phone looking for hospitals that can accept his patients. In fact, they have even used Google to find hospitals across the country that may have open beds.

“If I want a COVID bed, I have to be calling like 50 to 60 hospitals a day just to find one,” said Dr. Velarde. “They even hired a person here just to come and make calls trying to find a bed for the patient.”

Velarde also said this is not only for patients who have COVID, but also for other medical emergencies.

“If they happen to get anything else like a urinary tract infection that gets complicated or a kidney stone that needs a procedure, they can’t get a bed. They can’t get treatment,” he said.

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott requested 2,500 traveling nurses to help overloaded hospitals across Texas.

While Pile says there is still a need for more, it has helped.

Earlier in the week, nearly 800 patients were waiting to be admitted into a hospital for an ICU or non-ICU bed.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Pile said.