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Lack of hospital bed space in Houston area forces Chambers County to send patients elsewhere

One patient was flown to a hospital in El Campo and another resident was flown to a hospital in Dallas.

CHAMBERS COUNTY, Texas — Chambers County said it has flown at least two residents to hospitals outside of the Houston area because closer facilities didn't have available bed space to care for the patients.

The county's health department confirmed an Anahuac resident who tested positive for COVID-19 was flown to a hospital in El Campo and another Chambers County resident was flown to a hospital in Dallas due to limited bed capacity in the area.

"COVID-19 has become a hospitalization and healthcare crisis that is affecting everyone in need – both COVID-19 patients and those with other illnesses. As long as this crisis persists, local healthcare providers will most likely have no choice but to continue long-distance hospital transfers," the Chambers County Public Health Department said.

There are 625 Chambers County residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. The health department has reported five deaths. The county says although they are below the state average for COVID-19 related deaths, it's still five deaths too many.

"We encourage you all to see beyond the numbers and remember that each statistic ultimately represents a human being," the department said.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said what happened in Chambers County should be another wake-up call that the current COVID-19 response isn't working.

"When we see us stretched in this way, it does impact the whole community and we're seeing that in Chambers County," Hidalgo said. "When you're not able to serve people who are sick, that's a healthcare system that's not delivering. It's not a mystery what we have to do. We know what the solution is."

Houston Methodist CEO Dr. Marc Boom said the Chambers County transfers are the exception and not the rule. Methodist Hospital and other hospitals across the region continue to take as many transfers as possible. However as cases continue to climb, it becomes more difficult.

"We're really busy in Houston," Boom said. "We have COVID-19 out of control. We have massive numbers of patients with COVID, and we still need to care for people who don't have COVID, so things are full. And it's a challenge every day."

Houston Public Health Authority Dr. David Persse said it's not a surprise.

"All of Texas is being hit by a hurricane of the virus, if you will, at the same time," Persse said. "Therefore, there aren't neighboring communities with a lot of capacity to move patients to. That's why we're going to start seeing patients moved to places we hadn't anticipated or hadn't needed to do so in the past."

MORE ON CORONAVIRUS:

Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott deployed additional federal resources to hospitals in the Houston region to help in the fight against COVID-19.

An Urban Area Medical Task Force from the U.S. Department of Defense arrived Monday and a Disaster Medical Assistance Team from U.S. Health and Human Services has been deployed.

As of July 14, the state of Texas reported:

  • 10,569 COVID-19 patients hospitalized 
  • 55,017 total hospital beds 
  • 11,402 hospital beds available 
  • 949 ICU beds available 
  • 5,051 ventilators available
  • 6,288 average hospitalizations by day

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