Midland ER physician talks COVID-19 challenges

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MIDLAND, Texas (Nexstar)- Midland Memorial Hospital held a news conference Tuesday to update the community on coronavirus hospitalizations. 

Overall, the hospital’s census remains high at 237, but the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus has come down a bit. As of Tuesday morning, the hospital says it is caring for 109 patients with the virus. Those patients range in age from three weeks to 91-years-old. The hospital says 12 percent of those hospitalized are fully vaccinated, that’s a total of 13 breakthrough cases. All others are unvaccinated. 

According to the hospital, the positivity rate at its testing center has also started to decline. That rate was in the 30s a few weeks ago and has gone down to the mid 20s. However, hospital leaders say they don’t expect to see hospitalization rates ease until the positivity rates dip below 10%. 

The higher positivity rate continues to impact the emergency department, according to Dr. Sam Khandker, Emergency Department Medical Director. 

“My colleagues in the ED can say that they’re very tired and exhausted from the many weeks and months that we’ve been having to deal with this pandemic,” Khandker said. “As of this morning, we had holds of about 22 beds. Which is about half of our emergency department.”

That’s 22 patients waiting for beds in the main hospital to open so they can be admitted. While about half of those waiting for a bed are there for COVID-19 related illness, Khandker says there are others with medical conditions that are “true emergencies”. 

“It’s not just a COVID problem, but it’s hard for us to take care of patients because of it.” Khandker said. 

Hospital leaders are again asking those seeking testing to avoid the ER unless they are experiencing a true medical emergency. Instead, patients are encouraged to call 68NURSE for a testing appointment. 

“Our ED is very full. We, unfortunately, are having difficulty getting to everybody on time, especially those that come in with other emergencies. The last thing we want to do is take up someone’s bed who is having a heart attack and we need to treat them when minutes and seconds matter,” said Khandker.

Khandker said low vaccination rates are helping drive the current surge in cases. Even though Midland’s vaccination rate has increased slightly, about 42.2% of Midlanders are fully vaccinated, it’s just not enough to help yet with hospitalization rates. 

“The majority of patients we’re seeing in the ED, that I, myself, am putting on ventilators, are those that did not get vaccinated. Even those in their twenties and thirties, not just the elderly. And it’s very sad because this could have been avoided,” Khandker said. 

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