As Covid Fills Hospitals, Other Patients Care at Risk

A man arrives at Starr County Memorial Hospital, in Rio Grande City, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

As overwhelmed hospitals in the South rapidly run out beds due to an influx of coronavirus patients, the care of others is suffering.

Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Texas ICUs are running out of hospital beds, Insider reported. Each state’s ICU beds are filled at 90% capacity or more. In Alabama, the ICUs are over 100% full;  there were 1,621 patients in need of beds, but only 1,537 available.

Florida is seeing the worst coronavirus surge, with more than 16,000 hospitalizations recorded daily the past week. Overall, the United States is experiencing a national wave, with more than 100,000 hospitalizations a day recorded the past week.

Most of the state’s worst hit have vaccination rates in the 40s or 30s; Texas is at 47%, Georgia is at 41%, and Alabama is at 38%. Florida is the outlier, with 53%, but the state has little to no restrictions in place. The CDC has stated that unvaccinated people are 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with the coronavirus than vaccinated people.

The United States is currently seeing the highest number of hospitalizations in seven months. The number of death is nearly 1,000 a day, the highest in five months, according to ABC News.

Daniel Wilkinson, 46, an army veteran living in Bellville, Texas, was rushed to the hospital on August 21 for gallstone pancreatitis, CBS News reported.

The emergency room physician in Bellville Medical Center, Dr. Hasan Kakli, realized Wilkinson’s life was in danger and that the veteran needed more advanced care.

But when Kakli called other hospitals in the area, all he got was apologies. Their ICU wards were full of Covid patients, he was told. They had no room left for other patients who needed advanced care.

It took seven hours for a bed to open up in a V.A. hospital in Houston, and Wilkinson was airlifted there, even as he joked, “I promised myself after Afghanistan I would never be in a helicopter again!”

But it was too late, and the window of time to perform emergency surgery on Wilkinson had closed. He passed away with his mother near him, 24 hours after he first went to the emergency room in Bellville.

“He loved his country,” his mother, Michelle Puget, said. “He served two deployments in Afghanistan, came home with a Purple Heart.”

Emergency room doctor Kakli said had there not been a crush of coronavirus patients, Wilkinson would have been treated within hours, the procedure would have taken 30 minutes, and he could have walked out of the hospital.

“I’ve never lost a patient from this diagnosis, ever,” Kakli said. “We know what needs to be done and we know how to treat it, and we get them to where they need to go. I’m scared that the next patient that I see is someone that I can’t get to where they need to get to go.

“We are playing musical chairs, with 100 people and 10 chairs,” he said. “When the music stops, what happens? People from all over the world come to Houston to get medical care and, right now, Houston can’t take care of patients from the next town over. That’s the reality.”

As of August 26, there was a 102-person waiting list for an open ICU bed in Houston, and there are not enough nurses, even as 700 traveling nurses arrived as backup.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said she was prepared to open a field hospital.


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