Hospital Must Turn Away Sickest COVID Patients

'The situation is desperate' in Starr County, Texas
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2020 3:40 PM CDT
Hospital Must Turn Away Sickest COVID Patients
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responds to question as Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, looks on during a news conference at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center West Campus in Dallas on June 28.   (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The lone hospital in one Texas county is so swamped with coronavirus patients that it will start sending home patients who are deemed to be the most likely to die, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The idea is to focus resources on patients who can be saved at Starr County Memorial Hospital in rural Starr County. “For all of those patients that most certainly do not have any hope of improving, they are going to be better taken care of within their own family in the love of their own home rather than thousands of miles away dying alone in a hospital room,” says Jose Vasquez, the county's health authority. He called the situation "desperate," adding that the hospital can't continue to operate as normal because "the numbers are staggering." A health board will issue guidelines for medical workers on the decisions.

Cases have been surging in the mostly Latino community. The Guardian reports that the county implemented safety restrictions in the early days of the pandemic with much success, but things changed when Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state to reopen and superseded local authorities. The hospital twice expanded its COVID-19 unit after the state reopened. It now counts 29 beds. But the county has reported about 92 cases a day per 100,000 people over the past week, for the 11th highest rate in Texas. Patients are being moved daily to other hospitals, some out of state, but those are filling up, too. "Our doctors are going to have to decide who receives treatment, and who is sent home to die by their loved ones," says County Judge Eloy Vera. "I think if [the reopening] would have been slower, we could have kept the curve down." (More coronavirus stories.)

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