The Texas Medical Center (TMC) announced Tuesday that 97 percent of its intensive-care unit (ICU) beds are now occupied – much higher than the 70 to 80 percent occupancy TMC normally sees. Of those, 27 percent are due to COVID-19.
Sitting in south-central Houston, the TMC is a 2.1 square mile medical district hosting over sixty medical institutions under the banner of the nonprofit Texas Medical Corporation. It employs over 106,000 people, hosts 10 million patient encounters annually, and has a gross domestic product of $25 billion.
In terms of capacity, TMC offers over 9,200 patient beds, 1,330 of which are for intensive-care. As of reporting time, data from the TMC shows that 1,298 ICU beds are now occupied, 362 of which are by COVID-19 patients.
If the situation escalates further, the medical center can increase the number of ICU beds available, to a point. According to the TMC’s own data, an additional 373 patients would still be considered a sustainable surge. However, a further increase of 504 intensive-care patients on top of that would be considered unsustainable.
TMC’s own projections show that, based on the average daily increase in ICU patients from the past seven days, ICU occupancy will exceed unsustainable surge capacity on July 6.
TMC’s projection comes as hospitals within the city and the surrounding Harris County struggle to find enough beds for COVID-19 patients. A projection by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office has stated that the county will run out of ICU beds in 38 days. (Related: Texas coronavirus numbers hit record levels as hospitals run out of space.)
The shortage of beds is affecting hospitals’ ability to treat both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients alike.
“We appear to be nearing the tipping point,” stated Dr. Marc Boom, head of the Houston Methodist hospital system. “Should the number of new cases grow too rapidly, it will eventually challenge our ability to treat both COVID-19 and non-COVID 19 patients.”
Houston’s hospital systems aren’t the only ones in Texas buckling under the strain of the pandemic. On Wednesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that the state as a whole is facing a “massive outbreak” of the coronavirus.
“There is a massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the state of Texas,” Abbott said in an interview with KFDA-TV.
Abbott, who aggressively pushed for the state to reopen its economy in May, said that state officials were carefully watching hospital capacity.
Back in March, Abbott issued a since-rescinded ban on nonessential surgeries to help ensure hospitals did not get overwhelmed. As new COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Abbott is now looking at the possibility of new restrictions on hospitals, including some targetted on specific localities, to ensure ample bed space.
“We are looking at greater restrictions and some could be localized,” Abbott said Wednesday. “There are some regions in the state of Texas that are running tight on hospital capacity that may necessitate a localized strategy to make sure that hospital beds will be available.”
Even as he considers the possibility of new restrictions, Abbott said in a separate interview with KDFM-TV that he has been assured by hospital executives that their facilities will be able to handle the rising number of patients.
“If there are more people coming in with COVID-19, they will ensure that beds are available,” Abbott said.
Learn more about how the coronavirus is affecting our healthcare systems over at Pandemic.news.