Hospital bed availability in Houston trending in right direction, doctors say

Doctors say hospitals are seeing a change
Doctors say hospitals are seeing a change

HOUSTON – While an ICU bed is still hard to come by in Southeast Texas, the number of people waiting for a general bed is decreasing, according to the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council which oversees a 25-county region.

“Cautiously, I will say things are improving,” said SETRAC CEO Darrell Pile. “I think we are past the point where someone could die because they can’t get an ICU bed.”

About a month ago, it was a case of too many patients and not enough staffed beds. Loved ones were making pleas to find an open hospital bed and patients were being flown out of state for treatment. Some doctors told KPRC 2 that they googled out-of-state hospitals to find available beds.

As of Monday, 269 people were waiting for a general bed in southeast Texas and 39 were waiting for an ICU bed.

That’s a big difference compared to a day like Aug. 16, when 678 people were waiting for a general bed and 112 for an ICU bed.

“While we may get some satisfaction with the trend line coming down recently, in the past three or four weeks, it’s not down to a point where we can say this is behind us,” said Pile.

That is especially true for some of the sickest patients.

“I still have people waiting in the emergency room,” said Dr. Faisal Masud, the medical director of critical care at Houston Methodist Hospital. “I’m not expanding exponentially, but I’m not decreasing also. I’m still trying to manage a lot of patients.”

Dr. Masud said the ICU lags behind the peak of a surge and patients spend more time in the unit.

“Because when the patients come to the ICU, they are so sick. They don’t come here for just one to two days, some are here for two weeks,” he said. “Ninety percent are COVID, and as I mentioned, I’ve got a 19-year old, 22-year old, I’ve got a pregnant woman, and I’ve got women who delivered.”

According to Dr. Masud, 98% of COVID patients in the ICU are unvaccinated.

“If the community does not keep on vaccinating, the probability of an uncontrolled variant, and the worst-case scenario is, if a variant starts becoming more resistant to the current vaccine, that is what we are most concerned about more than anything else because then you have to start from scratch again,” Dr. Masud said.