Houston ICUs Reach 102% Capacity As Hospitals Face Crisis Amid Coronavirus Surge

Intensive care units in a Houston hospital system reached 102 percent capacity Tuesday as hospitals face a surge in coronavirus cases.

Texas Medical Center reported data stating there were 1,350 ICU patients in its health system as of June 30, including 480 patients with COVID-19. TMC indicated there is normally a 1,330 ICU bed capacity "under non-pandemic conditions," known as Phase 1, but also stated that "TMC leaders are actively managing, and can adjust, elective procedures to ensure sufficient capacity for COVID-19 needs."

The current number of unused beds at TMC stands at 3,080. If needed, Texas Medical's Phase 2 can increase ICU bed capacity to add an additional 1,703 ICU beds for the duration of the pandemic. Phase 3 can add another 2,207 ICU beds for surge capacity by converting non-ICU beds.

Newsweek reached out to TMC for comment, but they did not respond back in time for publication.

Dr. Robert Phillips, executive vice president at Houston Methodist, which is part of the Texas Medical Center, stated in a June 29 note to staff members that the hospital will delay surgical services to make room for COVID-19 patients, according to a report by The Texas Tribune.

"It has become necessary to consider delaying more surgical services to create further capacity for COVID-19 patients," Phillips said, even though he told the public three days earlier to keep their surgical appointments.

There are currently 6,533 COVID-19 patients in Texas hospitals, according to the state health department, more than triple the number of coronavirus patients in the hospital less than three weeks ago on June 12.

The Texas Department of State Health services reported 159,986 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 2,424 deaths attributed to the virus as of June 30. The health department also states they have seen 84,818 recoveries and are dealing with approximately 72,744 active cases at the moment.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Tuesday elective surgeries are now banned in four more counties to make space for COVID-19 patients if necessary on the same day the state reported 6,975 new cases and 620 new hospital admissions, both record highs.

"We are committed to working alongside hospitals to help ensure that every COVID-19 patient who needs a bed will have access to one. We are constantly monitoring the data at the local level and will continue to take precautionary action where it is necessary," Abbott said in a statement.

While the health department reported there are 13,711 hospital beds and 1,405 ICU beds available statewide as of June 30, Harris County, where Houston is located, is seeing a surge in patients they are at times unable to handle.

Harris Health System located in Houston said it had to begin transferring patients to nearby hospitals. Charlie McMurray-Horton, an associate administrator with Harris Health, said in an interview with ABC 13 the surge in patients "has intensified in the last month or so."

"We are actively trying to transfer out ICU [intensive care unit] and surge patients that are COVID positive and under investigation, just because we don't have the capacity to treat those patients," McMurray-Horton said.

Houston ICU
A member of the medical staff treats a patient in the Covid-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on June 30, 2020 in Houston, Texas. Go Nakamura/Getty