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Alba Iulia
Friday, August 14, 2020

“Death Wish”: Inside a Houston hospital preparing for a spike in virus

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Hospitals generally operate with almost full intensive care units and had planned to increase the number of critically ill patients they could treat. But the next morning, the governor issued an executive order that again restricted elective surgery in Harris County. The prescription, however, allows hospitals to continue performing surgeries and procedures that will not exhaust their ability to care for patients with coronavirus; some hospital executives and doctors, including those at Methodist, said they were able to continue providing these services, which they considered particularly necessary after being interrupted during the initial closure. Texas Medical Center hospitals collectively treat approximately 1,500 coronavirus patients, according to figures released on Saturday.

In the previous wave in mid-April, the Methodist system had a maximum of just over 200 patients with coronavirus. On Sunday, nearly 400 hospital patients were infected with the virus, and about 150 others were tested. Some models predict a peak in two to three weeks.

Roberta L. Schwartz, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Methodist, who serves as commander of coronavirus incidents, walked from unit to unit on Saturday “trolling for beds” as she described it. She spoke with nurses and doctors to resolve issues that could delay sending patients home or transfer them to lower levels of care when they were ready. She informed the nurses in an intermediate care unit that she would soon become an intensive care unit for patients with coronavirus.

She visited a huge laboratory with over $ 3 million in new instrumentation which she called the “Taj Mahal”, a former university laboratory that was reassigned to handle virus testing, and had a first look look at two recently purchased machines that can run 1,000 tests a day. In some parts of the country, laboratories, including Methodist’s, have experienced delays in recent tests as demand and new cases increase.

The hospital hires field nurses to reinforce its staff and offers bonuses to encourage certain employees to take additional shifts. In recent days, hospital beds and laptops have been rolled up in an empty 34-bed unit that had been closed and will now be used for patients with coronavirus. “That’s why I don’t have to put trailers in front and mobile hospitals in front,” said Dr. Schwartz. The changes were also part of the hospital’s efforts to maintain the ability to safely treat its many non-viral patients.

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