MMH talks hospital capacity, booster shots, nursing help from state

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MIDLAND, Texas (Nexstar)- Doctors from Midland Memorial Hospital held a news conference Thursday to update the community on the coronavirus response in Midland. 

As of Thursday morning, MMH reported it is caring for 75 COVID-19 patients. 11 of those are on ventilators. The COVID-19 patients range in age from two-years-old to eighty-eight years old. Additionally, MMH reported their pediatric beds are full. While they are only caring for one pediatric patient with coronavirus, MMH CEO Russell Meyers said the spike in pediatric patients is driven largely by RSV. 

Meyers again said the current surge the hospital is facing is driven by the Delta variant of the virus. About 96% of the virus samples they have sent off for testing have come back positive for the highly contagious strain. 

“The growth rate is real, and it is unsustainable,” Meyers said.

A recent study from the University of Texas Projection Center estimates MMH will see 500 or more patients with coronavirus hospitalized by the end of September. 

“We are growing at a rate that is very troubling and really unsustainable,” Meyers said again. 

Meyers said of the patients tested for the virus by the hospital, they have seen an increased positivity rate from 10% to 27% in the last five weeks. Where they were seeing about 46 positive tests per week, they are now seeing around 197 per week. The Midland County Health Department is also seeing 150 or more positive cases reported daily. That number was in the single digits per day just four weeks ago.

Of the 75 patients currently hospitalized with the virus, nine have been vaccinated. 

About vaccines, Meyers said MMH is preparing its mass vaccination site to begin administering vaccine booster shots as soon as the FDA approves them. The FDA said Wednesday, it expects to approve the administration of boosters among the immunocompromised as early as next week. 

In addition to the expected booster shot clinic the hospital has vaccine availability throughout Midland on a walk-in basis. 

To the unvaccinated, Meyers said,” It is clear to me that there are people in our community for whom the appeal to be vaccinated falls on deaf ears. They have made their choice, they have used whatever information is available to them, good or bad, misinformation or accurate, to make decisions that they won’t change about vaccination. And for people who are healthy, who are young, who are lean, that’s a decision that they can probably make, and it won’t affect the hospital. But if I can appeal to anyone, it’s the patient out there who is obese, who has hypertension, or diabetes, or some other chronic disease. Your life, your health, is very much at risk today. You need to be vaccinated.”

And for those who decide not to get vaccinated, no matter the state of their health, Meyers said, “Protect yourself. Stay home, stay out of crowds, wear a mask when you go out. This virus is highly contagious in its current variant.”

Meyers largest concern Thursday seemed to be hospital capacity, for coronavirus patients and non-coronavirus patients alike. On July 4, MMH had requests from area hospitals to transfer 34 patients into their care. 13 of those requests were denied due to lack of bed availability. On August 1, the hospital received 126 requests from area hospitals, 114 of those were denied. 

‘We are at full capacity. We are full all the time. We have critical staffing challenges and most of the time we’re unable to serve the needs of the people in our region who need us. That’s our mission and responsibility and we can’t meet it because of the current COVID spike,” Meyers said. 

Not only does the current spike affect those in the communities around Midland, but it may also directly affect Midlanders who need care. 

“This hospital is full, there is no relief coming in terms of a decline in disease and we want to be sure that we are here when you have an automobile accident, when you have a heart attack, when you need surgery, when all those things that are not COVID arise, our ability to do those things is jeopardized by the continuing surge of COVID,” Meyers said. 

Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Kit Bredimus said, “We are again completely full and that is stretching our resources to the max.”

On Wednesday, Governor Greg Abbott said the state will begin deploying 2,500 nurses around Texas and MMH has requested 52 nurses and 10 respiratory therapists. 

“Help may be on the way, but it will take some time and it certainly won’t be the numbers that we have requested,” Bredimus said. 

For now, the hospital is asking any registered nurse or respiratory therapist in the area who is retired or out of work for any reason to call the human resources department at MMH if you are willing to work, even for only a few hours. 

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