Texas hospitals asked to postpone elective procedures, out-of-state workers recruited

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced several initiatives aimed at boosting capacity and resources to care for a rise in COVID-19 patients Aug. 9, including asking hospitals in the state to voluntarily postpone some elective procedures.

The governor said that he is asking for hospitals' cooperation as new COVID-19 variants expand into Texas and hospitalization rates rise. 

In a letter to the Texas Hospital Association, he asked hospitals to consider postponing "procedures for which delay will not result in loss of life or a deterioration in the patient’s condition."

Mr. Abbott said that hospitals could also refer COVID-19 patients to infusion sites to free up beds for more serious COVID-19 cases. 

Last year, Mr. Abbott issued a proclamation suspending some hospitals from performing elective surgeries to ensure beds are available for COVID-19 patients.

"Although these tools remain available to the State of Texas. We should always aim to achieve the least restrictive means of combating this evolving threat to public health," Mr. Abbott said. 

He also announced Aug. 9 that the state is recruiting out-of-state healthcare workers to Texas to help hospitals with staffing.

The Texas Department of State Health Services will use staffing agencies to provide the assistance to state healthcare facilities, he said.

Ted Shaw, president and CEO if the Texas Hospital Association, praised the announcement. 

"This help could not come fast enough. Many hospitals have already idled non-essential services and are diverting patients to extend staffing capability. We look forward to a swift influx of out-of-state personnel, coordinated by the state through staffing agencies," Mr. Shaw said in a news release.  

The staffing help comes as healthcare providers in Texas and other states have grappled with staffing and more patients amid a rise in COVID-19 cases fueled by the delta variant.

In Houston, Harris Health System has temporarily closed two clinics to boost staffing at its hospitals.

As of Aug. 9, the health system's Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital was at 100 percent intensive care unit utilization (63 percent being COVID-19 cases), and its Ben Taub Hospital intensive care unit was at 95 percent capacity.

On Aug. 8 more than 9,400 people were hospitalized in Texas for COVID-19 overall, the highest number since early February, according to state data cited by the Houston Chronicle.

Mr. Abbott also ordered the opening of five centers to provide antibody treatments for COVID-19, according to the Texas Tribune


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