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Hospitals facing nurse shortage as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb

"We’re working hard. While the City is debating about masks, we’re just trying to keep everyone safe when they come through those doors,” one Houston ER nurse said.

HOUSTON — Hospitals in the Texas Medical Center are stretched to surge capacity, and COVID-19 numbers are still rising. On top of that, there’s a shortage of nurses.

RELATED: Some Texas Medical Center hospitals postpone elective surgeries amid rise in COVID cases

Kevin McFarlane is part of the Houston Emergency Nurses Association.

“Healthcare workers throughout the country are tired. We’re working hard. While the city is debating about masks, we’re just trying to keep everyone safe when they come through those doors,” McFarlane said.

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He said there are several factors contributing to a shortage of nurses. The most obvious reason is the higher volume of patients. Some are leaving their jobs to make more money as travel nurses. Others are choosing to leave the ER to lower their risk of exposure.

“I think we’re seeing some people who are leaving nursing as a profession. We’re seeing a little bit of that. I think we’re seeing lots of nurses who are tired, so some of them are opting for different positions,” McFarlane said.

COVID fatigue is something a lot of people can all relate to, but McFarlane asks everyone to take the same safety precautions they did last year.

“COVID is still a problem and there are a lot of folks who feel like it’s not, and it’s just not true. We’re still seeing and feeling COVID in the emergency department particularly,” he said.

When cases surged last summer, crisis nurses came in from other states to help at local hospitals. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee held a press conference Sunday calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to ask the federal government to send crisis nurses to Houston again. She said the FEMA request must come from Abbott's office.

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