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Front line workers plead for more help as Gov. Abbott requests 2,500 out-of-state nurses to help battle latest COVID-19 surge

Texas Department of State Health Services tells KHOU 11 approximately 750 nurses will report to hospitals in the Houston, Galveston and Beaumont region within days.

HOUSTON — Too many COVID-19 patients and not enough nurses. That's the problem facing hospitals like Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital and so many others in the Houston area.

"They are scared and they're exhausted," said Maureen Padilla, senior vice president of Nursing Affairs for the Harris Health System.

Nurses on the front lines of COVID-19 are overwhelmed by the cases that don't stop coming in. Padilla said at LBJ Hospital, they're running out of space and desperately need more nurses.

"It's very disheartening to nursing and the nurses who have been working so hard and who were finally able to breathe again," Padilla said. "We could give them some time off again and very quickly that turned around.

It's why Governor Greg Abbott has requested 2,500 out-of-state agency nurses to help overloaded hospitals. Last summer 14,000 out-of-state nurses were deployed across Texas.

"2,500 across the state of Texas is going to meet some of our needs, but it's not going to be enough," Padilla said.

The Department of State Health Services is already processing requests from hospitals across the Texas Medical Center and the state.

Harris Health System is asking for 80 ICU nurses alone.

"We'll be able to start sending staff to regions in the state," said DSHS spokesman Chris Van Deusen. "It's really every region in the state."

DSHS tells KHOU 11 approximately 750 nurses will be sent to hospitals in the Houston, Galveston and Beaumont region in a few days. They're coming from across the country to help.

"Any bit of assistance will be helpful to us at this point," said Dr. David Callender, CEO of Memorial Hermann Health System.

Dr. Callender said there's more that we can all do to stop this surge, and that message has been communicated to Gov. Abbott.

"As a group of health care professionals, we said pretty clearly we would like for people to be wearings masks to the extent you could require it or strongly encourage it, that would be very helpful right now," Dr. Callender said.

Abbott is not backing down from his ban on mask mandates. Overworked nurses are on the front lines pleading with folks to roll up their sleeves for the vaccine before they end up in the hospital.

"Getting that vaccination is the most important thing that the community can do to protect families, each other and to help medical providers in our community," Padilla said.

DSHS told KHOU 11 it has enough state funds to provide for these out-of-state nurses through at least the end of September. If this surge lasts any longer than that, we could be facing an even bigger problem. 

KHOU 11 reached out to Houston Methodist and Texas Children's Hospital as well. Both systems confirmed they, too, are dealing with a nursing shortage and have applied for additional nurses through DSHS.

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