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Harris Health System in 'crisis mode' without enough staff to deal with increase in patients, CEO says

Harris Health System is in "crisis mode," according to its CEO. He said too many people are in their ER and there’s not enough staff to help deal with the increase.

HOUSTON — Another COVID-19 spike in the Houston area is causing a strain on the Harris Health System. We’re talking about Ben Taub Hospital, Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, and their many clinics. The CEO said too many people are in the ER and there’s not enough staff to help deal with the increase in ER patients and COVID patients.

"We are not talking about a crisis a week 10 days ... 14 days from now. We are in a crisis mode today," President and CEO of Harris Health System Esmaeil Porsa said.

Porsa said the system doesn't have enough staff to deal with the increase in COVID patients along with the normal ER patients.

"In my LBJ hospital, more than 50% of the ICU patients are now COVID positive, which is a huge burden," Porsa said.

Last year, the state sent 140 nurses to help with the pandemic. Right now, the state has sent none.

To help, they are shifting some workers around and they’re closing down two clinics by end of the week, Vallbona Health Center and Squatty Lyons Health Center. The staff from these two clinics will be transferred to help the two hospitals.

"We are closely monitoring our elective procedures trying to see when we may have to pull the trigger and cancel those procedures ... so that we can provide more staffing into our hospitals," Porsa said.

Porsa said to expect to wait in the ER for up to 24 hours.

"We are going to have increasingly more people in the emergency room waiting for a hospital bed, and unfortunately, some of them are not going to make it. That is what happened last summer and I think that is what is going to happen this time around," Porsa said.

How can you help? Porsa said the best thing to do is get vaccinated.

"If you are not going to get a vaccine, for God's sake, at least wear a face mask to protect yourself your loved ones," Porsa said.

The hospital staff said it's working very closely with other hospitals to transfer patients. But as the numbers continue to rise across the region, bed availability at other facilities is limited. Porsa said he reached out to the state and to the federal government for help.

Other hospitals in the Texas Medical Center said they are not dealing with any staffing shortages at this time, but they are seeing a big increase in cases come through their hospitals.