Texas hospitals grappling for extra staff as the entire country faces nursing shortages

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Thursday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported six of the state’s 22 trauma service areas had zero available ICU beds. Hospital systems across the entire state are pleading with Texans.

“Please don’t get onto motorcycles, don’t ride your ATVs, get the kids off the trampoline, OK. Because if you come to Northwest with an injury, I cannot guarantee you that we can give you the care you need,” Dr. Brian Weis, the Northwest Texas Healthcare System Chief Medical Officer, said at an emergency COVID-19 update in Amarillo Thursday.

It’s the same dire message echoed from hospital systems across the state, like in Lubbock.

“Unfortunately, we are just like every other hospital in the state of Texas,” Dr. Craig Rhyne, the CMO for Covenant Health System in Lubbock said this week.

In Austin, healthcare workers have been ringing the alarm for weeks.

“I’ve had to treat patients in the waiting room…it’s like being at war. It’s really like being at war, seeing so much suffering,” Dr. Anna Vu-Wallace, a doctor of internal medicine, explained.

The physical capacity is not the main problem, though.

“We don’t have the nursing staff to take care of that number of patients. We’re asking for additional resources in a very vigorous way. We’re putting out lots of contracting offers to get more staff. It’s not yielding the results that we need,” Dr. Michael Lamanteer, BSA’s CMO up in Amarillo, said Thursday.

The state has promised help is on the way, but DSHS said it will be a week until all 2,500 promised medical personnel arrive in Texas.

“Workers should start arriving in the next few days, and we’re hearing from our contactors that it will take a week or so to get up to that 2,500+ goal,” DSHS spokesperson Chris Van Deusen said.

It will take a couple days before those workers will be ready.

“Most travel nurses will get anywhere from two to three days worth of orientation, and then they’re put on the schedule when they’re on the floor,” Serena Bumpus, a registered nurse with the Texas Nurses Association, explained.

She added it’s difficult to recruit out-of-state nurses everywhere right now.

“The entire country is experiencing a shortage like this and nurses are in desperate need in almost every state,” Bumpus said.

For now, health officials are begging Texas to get vaccinated and mask up.

“We’ve gone to plan A, and we’ve moved to plan B, and there’s no plan C right now. And so, we’re asking you to do your part,” Amarillo’s Public Health Authority Casie Stoughton said Thursday.

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