DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The president and CEO of the DFW Hospital Council, Stephen Love, said Thursday that all 40 hospitals in Dallas County will comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to postpone elective surgeries unless they’re immediately and medically necessary.
The governor ordered the move in not only Dallas, but Harris (Houston), Travis (Austin), and Bexar (San Antonio) counties as a way to increase hospital bed capacity as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Texas.
He said, “These four counties have experienced significant increases in people being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and today’s action is a precautionary step to help ensure that the hospitals in these counties continue to have ample supply of available beds to treat COVID-19 patients.”
The Department of State Health Services reports the number of positive coronavirus cases rose by 5,996 Thursday to 131,917 statewide, and that the number of people who died related to the virus increased by 47 to 2,296.
The number of tests for the virus rose by 39,160 to 1,875,197.
The state says the number of people who’ve recovered has increased by 1,598 Thursday to 74,496.
The number of active cases increased by 4,351 to 55,125.
Love said the hospitals can handle the additional COVID-19 patients coming in. “I want people to know, we have adequate capacity.”
He said the order will provide more capacity, but that each facility is still looking to see how much more.
When asked if there are any individual hospitals or ICU units in the Dallas area that are overrun, Love said, “None of the ICU units to my knowledge I’ve heard about are overrun.”
He said the governor’s order will not trigger any of the hospitals to implement their elaborate surge plans.
Under that scenario, he says facilities add beds in various areas throughout the hospital. “I have heard a couple of hospitals say we’re expanding that within the hospitals to add maybe ten more beds because we’re getting more COVID-19. That’s not a surge plan.”
On Thursday, the DFW Hospital Council decided against opening a pop-up medical facility at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Wednesday that it’s more effective to use existing hospitals. “You take surgical suites and you turn those into extra bed capacity and you have those military doctors go to work with the teams in the existing facilities to help more people.”
Love agreed, saying to open such a facility at the convention center would require numerous services already provided at hospitals. “If you do a pop-up hospital, you’ve got to replicate many of those services and take it there and it becomes somewhat disruptive.”
Jenkins said Thursday that since June 1 the number of hospitalizations in Dallas County has jumped by 88%.
Love said the total hospital beds and ICU beds in the North Texas region are each running at about 70% occupancy.
The DFW Hospital Council said that’s about the same level on any given day before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The council also said that during previous flu seasons, the occupancy rose to 90%.
Love said, “Sometimes in flu season, we do surge, when we had H1N1, we had some of those that surged.”
Hospitals in the city of Dallas are required to report their occupancy rates.
During the past two weeks, the total number of beds has ranged between 64 to 71% occupancy with the highest percentage rates reached on June 12, 19 and 20.
During that same time, the total number of ICU beds has ranged between 65 to 75% occupancy with the highest percentage rate reached on June 20.
In the same period, ventilator occupancy rates have ranged from 31 to 37% with the highest percentage rate reached on June 24.
Love said hospital physicians are seeing more family members. “We’re treating quite a few family members. I talked to a physician who was treating a husband, wife, two teenagers, and they all had COVID-19 and had been infected by one of the teenagers. The average age of the COVID-19 patients that are being admitted is certainly coming down. They’re younger people than what the average age was earlier.
He said he’s more worried that residents have become lax in wearing masks, social distancing and washing their hands, than he is about hospital capacity.