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Nurse shortage at Houston hospitals has reached a breaking point as patients wait hours for care

Medical tents outside of Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital are ready to accept COVID-19 patients immediately, but the beds are empty because there are not enough nurses.

HOUSTON — The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 continues to reach near peak levels.

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Saturday said Aug. 12 saw 393 people hospitalized in local hospitals due to COVID-19.

He said that’s the fourth-largest number of hospital admissions due to COVID since the pandemic began last year.

However, hospitals with overflow triage areas remain vacant.

Medical tents outside of Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital are ready to start accepting COVID-19 patients immediately, but the beds are empty because there are not enough nurses to take care of patients.

“Please send help now," said Dr. George Williams, chief ICU medical officer for LBJ Hospital.

“We can currently treat six patients in here and that may seem like a small number but considering how full we are in the hospitals six patients can make a very big difference considering our current circumstances,” Dr. Williams said.

He said even though these beds are available some patients are having to wait hours to be seen.

“We need more staffing just to be able to take care of what we have in the hospital alone. Let alone this as well,” Dr. Williams said.

The nursing staff at LBJ is down nearly 27 percent.

Governor Greg Abbott has requested 2,500 out-of-state nurses to help overloaded hospitals.

“But 2,500 that the governor has put on the street saying you can get them is for the whole state of Texas," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Dr. Williams said they’re still waiting for the nurses to arrive.

“We have our nursing team and our physician teams getting stretched thinner and thinner to take care of all the COVID patients that are throughout the hospital and our ICUs right now, so it is a very serious situation,” he said.

For now they’re doing what they can with what they have to help as many people as possible.

Dr. Williams said if hospitals continue to be overrun, the next time a patient comes in and they can’t find a bed or space, there’s a chance that patient may have to be transported to another hospital, whether it’s local, in Texas or out of state.