Houston hospitals grapple with bed, crucial medicine shortages amid COVID-19 spike

Texas' surge in COVID-19 cases is straining hospitals in the Houston area, and internal memos show some are running low on beds and a crucial COVID-19 treatment this week, according to joint reporting from NBC News and ProPublica

In a July 29 memo to staff, Houston Methodist said it would delay surgical services to create capacity for COVID-19 patients. The memo came just three days after the system sent messages to thousands of patients encouraging them to keep their surgical appointments. 

"To tell you the truth, what worries me is not this week, where we’re still kind of handling it," Roberta Schwartz, PhD, Houston Methodist’s chief innovation officer who is leading efforts to expand the system's bed capacity, told NBC News and ProPublica. "I'm really worried about next week."

COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased nearly fourfold in the Houston area since Memorial Day. As of June 30, more than 3,000 people were hospitalized at local hospitals, and nearly 800 were in intensive care. 

Houston Methodist is not the only hospital feeling the strain. Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital ran out of both beds and the COVID-19 treatment remdesivir June 28. The hospital has canceled all elective surgeries and had to transfer about a dozen patients who needed intensive care to other hospitals, the hospital said in a note to staff obtained by NBC News and ProPublica.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center also alerted employees that it would start admitting cancer patients with COVID-19 from public hospitals in the city.

To view the full report, click here.


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