Texas Medical Center hit 100% ICU bed occupancy, then didn't report data for 3 days

Houston-based Texas Medical Center stopped reporting intensive care unit bed capacity for three days over the weekend after saying its ICU was at 100 percent occupancy June 25 and was on pace to exceed an "unsustainable surge capacity" by July 6, according to a Houston Chronicle report.

The health system eventually updated its charts June 27, but the Chronicle reported eight of the 17 original slides were deleted. On June 28, the health system re-posted many of the missing slides, including ICU bed capacity data, updating how the information was presented. The data and projections on the slides remained the same.

The new slides reflect that the health system could create additional ICU beds at its facilities, which would lower ICU bed occupancy from 93 percent to 72 percent. Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom, MD, told the Houston Chronicle that it would be "challenging" but "doable" to convert 373 more TMC hospital beds into ICU beds. The ICU bed capacity slide posted on June 28 includes a message that says the 93 percent phase 1 ICU capacity "can be managed by appropriately transferring patients from ICU to Medical / Surgical beds and potentially by delaying some procedures."

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered hospitals in some areas, including Houston, to halt elective surgical procedures on June 25 to preserve ICU beds for COVID-19 patients. The new charts show 31 percent of TMC's ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The Washington Post reported that the removal of the data raised "questions about whether the information had been scrubbed for political reasons" because it came just days after Mr. Abbott ordered elective surgeries — a significant source of revenue for hospitals — to be paused again.

Dr. Boom said the health system should have updated the data and chart presentation on its website sooner to more clearly relay the information.

"Obviously, this got delayed a couple days because it's complicated — you put 11 or so institutions together trying to figure out something this complicated and trying to figure out how we express it a little bit more accurately — it took a while, a little longer than any of us would have liked, but simply because it's complicated," he told the Chronicle.

During the gap in TMC ICU bed capacity reporting, the Chronicle reported there was confusion about whether the health system would be able to withstand a projected spike in cases that occurred after Mr. Abbott lifted restrictions in May.

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