'Our backs are to the wall': Texas hospital to turn away COVID-19 patients with poor survival chances

A Texas hospital has formed an ethics committee to screen all COVID-19 patients for survival potential and send home those with low survival chances, according to Border Report.

Rio Grande City, Texas-based Starr County Memorial Hospital, implemented an ethics committee and a triage committee to review incoming COVID-19 patients, Starr County Health Authority Jose Vazquez, MD, said during a July 21 videoconference call. The committees will determine what type of treatment patients will likely require and whether they are likely to survive. Those deemed too fragile, sick or elderly will be advised to go home. Patients with low recovery chances will be better cared for at home with loved ones rather than dying at a hospital thousands of miles away, Dr. Vazquez said. 

"There is nowhere to put these patients. The whole state of Texas and neighboring states have no ICU beds to spare for us," Dr. Vazquez said. The county of 61,000 residents has recorded 1,573 COVID-19 cases and 16 related deaths with 27 fatality cases pending, according to Border Report. As of July 24, 13,476 of 51,031 hospital beds are available statewide, with 1,267 ICU beds open. Currently, Texas has more COVID-19 patients hospitalized than any other state, with 10,893 COVID-19 patients as of July 24.

"The number of cases we see in the ER are growing every day; 50 percent of cases in the ER are COVID. The situation is desperate," Dr. Vazquez said.  

Physicians at Starr County Memorial Hospital, the only hospital in the county, have to make these end-of-life decisions because residents aren't following social distancing guidelines, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera said, adding, "Our backs are to the wall."

"Unfortunately, Starr County Memorial Hospital has limited resources and our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones," Mr. Vera wrote on the county's Facebook page July 23, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. "This is what we did not want our community to experience... We must be responsible for ourselves and our loved ones." 

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