As COVID Stretches Resources, Starr County Doctors Ration Care

Dr, Jose Vazquez of Starr County Memorial Hospital says this is “the worst position” in which a physician could ever find themselves.

By Michael MarksJuly 21, 2020 2:10 pm,

On Tuesday, statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 were down for the second straight day, but this decline is not evenly distributed across Texas. In Rio Grande City, Starr County Memorial Hospital is experiencing their worst influx of patients yet. 

On Monday, Health Authority Dr. Jose Vazquez called for a two-to-three-week shelter-at-home order for the county. 

About a month ago, the hospital did not have any COVID patients but, right now, all of their beds are full. 

“We have a very difficult situation here,” Dr. Vazquez told Texas Standard host David Brown. “We do not have specialty services, we are just […] a rural health hospital.”

Human resources – doctors and nurses – are one of the hospital’s most critical needs right now, as staff members get increasingly tired and sick themselves. The hospital also has an extreme need for oxygen.

“There is no way to discharge patients who have somehow recovered after the acute phase of the disease and they need some care at home including oxygen There is no way to send those patients home,” Vazquez said.

The COVID unit only has 49 beds, but the nearest facility with a higher level of care is about 45 miles away in McAllen, Texas. 

“We have been forced to be transporting patients – critical patients intubated on ventilators. We have been transferring patients with helicopters,” Vazquez said. 

According to Vazquez, Starr County Memorial is at the point right now, where they have to decide which patients have a fighting chance to recover – who should get ventilators and a higher level of care. 

He said this is “the worst position” in which a physician could ever find themselves.

Web story by Sarah Gabriellli.

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