Texas hospitals are filling up as COVID infection numbers rise. The same is true in Lubbock, a vital medical hub for rural communities around West Texas. Texas Tech Public Medias poke with one health care worker who says the wait times in her emergency room are averaging 20 hours.
Ebtesam Islam is a pulmonologist at Lubbock’s University Medical Center. She works in the medical intensive care unit, treating the most severe COVID-19 patients. When comparing this latest infection surge to the one back in fall she says what she’s witnessing is a grim “family affair.”
“You’ll see a son in one ICU, the father is in another ICU, grandfather already passed away,” she said.
Islam points to reasons already familiar to most health care workers for this recent increase: the highly infectious nature of the delta variant of the coronavirus, combined with a large area population that has so far rejected vaccination efforts. A year ago, an infected person would spread the virus to one or two other people. This time with the delta variant, an infected person can spread the virus to up to nine people, statistically speakin.
Islam says this sudden rise in patients is forcing the hospital to turn away more transfer patients. It faced a similar dilemma last fall.
“Up to almost 50 patients are being turned away, turned away when they’re coming in from other hospitals wanting to be here, but we just don’t have the capacity,” she said.
When it comes to how medical staff is handling this current wave, Islam says everyone is feeling intense frustration and strain from the trauma they’re witnessing.
She says he colleagues feel much of the consequences of this surge could have been prevented. But part of her dilemma is that people on the outside don’t see what she sees.
“They may see the patient who got a little bit of oxygen and was discharged. They’re not seeing these patients who are, their oxygen is going down and nurses rush in to intubate, and you’re trying to get them stabilized,” she said.
She expects her hospital to reach a peak in the number of patients in the next few weeks. As of Thursday, there were 12 available ICU beds in Trauma Service Area B, which includes Lubbock.