HOUSTON – On Tuesday, Harris County commissioners approved a $30 million COVID-19 initiative to bring out-of-state nurses in to help overloaded hospitals in the county due to the COVID surge.
“In many hospitals, the challenge is not so much the lack of beds, it is a lack of medical personnel to staff the beds,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
The initiative will bring hundreds of nurses into the county as early as the end of the week. The nurses will be in place for about eight weeks.
Tuesday afternoon, the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council reported that nearly 750 people were waiting for a hospital bed in its 25-county region.
“Our public health hospital CEO was explaining the other week (that) a man with pancreatitis had to wait 40 hours for a bed at our public hospital, and we have beds that are sitting empty because we simply don’t have nurses,” said Hidalgo at a news conference on Tuesday.
Hospitals will contact SETRAC to request relief.
“SETRAC is serving the hospitals to understand exactly which kind of nurse they need and that will determine how much of the $30 million we need to spend,” said Hidalgo.
Harris Health, which oversees Ben Taub and LBJ hospitals, will request about 100 nurses.
The initiative is welcome news to a Kingwood woman whose desperate pleas on Facebook Live led to her finding her husband a hospital bed.
Tim Cotto had been waiting for four days at a Kingwood hospital for an ICU bed to open.
“The nurses were just telling me that there were no beds available,” said Cotto’s wife, Tracy Cotto. “They called and told me if he doesn’t get to a Houston hospital on that fifth day, he’s not going to make it.”
The father of four had COVID and developed pneumonia. He is currently at Memorial Hermann-Memorial City on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma.
“Maybe they could have started some of the treatments earlier that they started after he had already become so dire,” Tracy told KPRC 2.
Tracey said she does not know if her husband would be in a better state had he been transferred sooner, but more nurses she says can only help.
“We need to get the help and get it going now and get the money released and get the doctors and nurses here so another family doesn’t have to go through this,” she said.