MCH orders more ventilators, will pause some elective surgeries, amid COVID surge


ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar)- Medical Center Hospital’s President and CEO, Russell Tippin, hosted a news conference Tuesday to update the community on coronavirus hospitalizations. 

Tippin said the hospital is currently caring for 65 COVID-19 patients, that number is up by 11 from Monday. 34 of the patients in the hospital’s care are on ventilators. That number is up 14 from Monday. Tippin said hospital staff are concerned with the number of ventilated patients, the hospital only has 6 ventilators to spare. 

In an emergency boarding meeting Tuesday, the Ector County Hospital District approved the purchase of an additional 40 ventilators. Tippin said they expect to have those in three to five business days.

In addition to a critically low supply of ventilators, the hospital is also facing a very real staffing shortage. 25 MCH employees are currently unable to work, either having tested positive for the virus themselves, or quarantining with a positive family member. Aside from that, Tippin said MCH has 75 job openings for nurses. 

Tuesday, the ECHD directors also approved incentive pay for nursing employees. The hospital will now have an additional 1.2 million dollars to help retain their nurses. 

“Right now, we need critical care nurses. We need them, and we want to make sure that we’re not losing critical care nurses who are going to jump and go work for an agency somewhere because they can make more money,” Tippin said.

Due to the rise in COVID-19 positive patients and the shortage of critical care nurses, MCH also announced Tuesday it will heed Governor Greg Abbott’s call to voluntarily suspend elective surgeries. Tippin said by the end of the week, MCH will no longer schedule elective surgery cases that require the patient to stay in the hospital overnight. 

“We will slow down our elective surgeries that require an overnight stay. We realize that having a patient that needs an overnight stay is probably using a critical care bed. We don’t have the critical care beds to put those people in right now because those beds are full of COVID patients,” Tippin said. 

When asked how long MCH plans to suspend elective surgeries, Tippin said the decision to resume elective cases will be driven by the number of COVID-19 patients in their care.

“As that number comes down, we’ll be able to ramp up those elective surgeries. If that number continues to grow, we will keep that paused,” Tippin said. 

Also during Tuesday’s news conference, the hospital once again iterated the importance of the coronavirus vaccine. 

“Regardless of what you think about the vaccine, you can tell by the sickness, the level of sickness our patients have, who is vaccinated and who is unvaccinated. Vaccination will not keep you from getting COVID. All that vaccination is doing is giving you a better chance at survival,” Tippin said. “I want people to be vaccinated because our hospital is full of sick people. We’re working our staff to the bone, they’re tired…and I can tell you, the situation is, if you want a better chance of survival, you need to take the vaccine.”

MCH says of their 65 COVID-19 patients, 54 are unvaccinated. The status of one patient is currently unknown, and of the 10 vaccinated patients, none are on ventilators. Patients in their care range in age from 19 to 82.

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