Healthcare professionals at Guadalupe Regional Medical Center for weeks have battled a third surge in COVID-19 infections sweeping the nation and county.
While Gov. Greg Abbott has promised to send additional help in the form of healthcare workers to hospitals across the state, a local hospitalist shared a couple important tips for members of the community, .
“Number 1, get vaccinated. Number 2, talk to your loved ones and encourage them to be vaccinated or else we are going to have another surge with another variant,” Dr. Juan Arenas, medical director of hospitalists at GRMC, said. “At some point, we don’t even know if vaccines will be totally effective. But as of now, there is proof that vaccines do work.”
Guadalupe Regional Medical Center has seen a surge in the number of COVID-19 admitted patients for the past six weeks, Public Information Officer Elizabeth McCown said. Added to non-COVID patients being cared for at the facility, 35 coronavirus patients were receiving treatment as of Thursday, she said.
GRMC’s seven-day moving average for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Thursday was 41 per day and the seven-day moving average for COVID-19 admissions was four per day, McCown said.
About 86% of patients hospitalized at GRMC for the virus were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, she said.
Tending to so many patients who are not vaccinated frustrates healthcare providers because they feel the current surge could have been prevented, Arenas said.
“The patients we have admitted with the vaccine, most of them have had a mild form” of the disease, he said. “Meaning, the amount of oxygen they require is a small amount and they usually go home sooner than later. We’re talking about fewer or shorter length of stay in the hospital with less oxygen requirement. So, you can see a difference.”
He and others at the hospital are noticing younger patients being hospitalized than during previous surges, Arenas said. Before, those people hospitalized with COVID-19 were “60, 65, 70, 80 years old,” he said.
Now, they’re coming in for hospital stays at 37 years old, 42 years old and slightly older, Arenas said.
“It’s been in the range between early 30s and early 50s, with the bulk between mid-30s and mid-40s, something like that,” he said. “We didn’t see that previously.”
The current surge in cases is stretching healthcare workers to the brink of exhaustion and mental wellness, Arenas said. He and his colleagues try to stay cool and collected, he said.
But the circumstances can be overwhelming and could lead them to lose track, lose focus and lose the energy to continue, Arenas said.
“We don’t want to do that because you need to be on top of the game to think on your feet and provide good care,” he said. “We have been able to work as a team, help each other out to decrease that anxiety and stressful situation, and transform that into a positive attitude and outcome.”
But more help is needed, he said. And, it could be on its way, Abbott recently said.
On Thursday, the governor announced the Texas Department of State Health Services is deploying an additional 2,500 medical staff to support health care facilities in Texas.
The added support should bring the total number of medical personnel deployed across the state to 8,100, he said.
Along with the personnel, the governor promised equipment to help.
“The medical personnel and equipment deployed by DSHS will provide crucial support to our healthcare facilities as they treat hospitalized cases of COVID-19,” Abbott said. “Texans can do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and hospitalizations by getting the vaccine. It’s safe, effective, and your best defense against COVID-19.”
Previously, 5,600 medical personnel were authorized to be sent across the state, the governor said.
GRMC has received 15 additional medical personnel authorized from the state, McCown said. Hospital leadership has brought in eight or nine nurses through private contracts with travel nurse providers GRMC sought on the open market, she said.
Guadalupe Regional Medical Center needs more help, Arenas said.
“Basically, you have the teams working 24/7 with no days off or the days off they have are very limited to recover; it’s not normal,” he said. “Therefore, you can increase the rotation, the people included in the rotation, and therefore you will have well-rested healthcare workers to take care of the critically ill patients rather than an exhausted healthcare worker, which can lead to medical errors, accidents and malpractice.
“This is why we’re desperately requesting that help.”