There are only 27 ICU beds available for 6.6 million people in the Greater Houston Area, according to the Texas Health Department, and only 329 in the entire state. That’s an all-time low and it couldn't come at a worse time with COVID cases running rampant.
Along with Harris County, the Houston-area TSA includes Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller and Wharton counties.
Before today, the previous low was 40 ICU beds during the summer COVID surge last July.
The Texas Medical Center says hospitals can add ICU beds when they reach surge capacity, but they’re also coping with a shortage of nurses to care for the patients.
On Monday, LBJ Hospital in northeast Houston reported its ICU was at 100% capacity and 63% of those patients had COVID. The county-run hospital is setting up tents for the overflow, but they don’t have enough staff to operate them.
Ben Taub, the other county-run hospital, was at 95% capacity in its ICU on Monday.
Non-COVID patients could be impacted, too. Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said their ambulances are waiting longer at the ERs, affecting overall response times.
Here are other key numbers in the Houston Trauma Service Area from the DSHS website, as of Monday.
- 2020 population estimate: 6,688 587
- Available hospital beds: 1,313
- Available ventilators: 1,367
- Confirmed COVID patients in hospital: 2,285
- Total hospitalizations: 12,248
Montgomery County officials toured hospitals in The Woodlands to see what’s happening inside for themselves. What they witnessed is alarming.
“We went to St. Lukes, Hermann, we went to Methodist across I-45, we talked to the people over at Children's Hospital,” Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said. “So, they took me on a tour, and they walked me down the halls, and I’m not exaggerating, I saw people in beds in the hallway with oxygen. I went through the emergency room and we saw in one place 90 people they were trying to get in there but it can only hold 20. So they have them in converted closets and waiting rooms all those various things. I've never seen anything like it.”
Outside of the hospitals, more patients in ambulances were waiting for a spot to open so they can get inside.
“[Patients] end up sitting in the ambulance for three, four, sometimes even five hours,” Keough said.
Montgomery County Commissioners approved to bring in 60 medical workers at a cost of $9 million to help manage the surge.
“This new variant, that’s coming ... it spreads much quicker, and because so many of the elderly have vaccines, we’re finding 30 to 50-year-olds in these crisis situations,” Keough said.
According to KVUE, our sister station in Austin, they only have two ICU beds in their TSA, which includes more than two million people.
On Monday, the Dallas TSA was in better shape with 87 ICU beds for about 8 million residents while San Antonio’s TSA had 50 beds for nearly 3 million people.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked hospitals to voluntarily postpone elective surgeries and said more nurses are being brought in from out-of-state.