'Those are not easy decisions’: Amarillo hospitals make decisions for possible excessive capacity

VIDEO: 'Those are not easy decisions’: Amarillo hospitals make decisions for possible excessive capacity

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Amarillo may exceed hospital capacity in the next few weeks according to predictions made by epidemiologists with the University of Texas.

The epidemiologist along with researchers have created a model that uses phone mobility data then links it another model studying the diseases' progression and compares both of those to the hospitalization data reported.

It then creates predictions on the way the virus spreads and affects regions across the state.

The associate director of the University of Texas COVID-19 modeling consortium, Dr.Spencer Fox, says the numbers in Amarillo are worrisome.

“We are predicting that there is a 28 percent chance that the region will exceed hospital capacity within three weeks," said Dr. Fox "So that is all hospital beds within hospitals, but there is an even higher percent chance with a 73 percent possibility that the region exceeds ICU capacity.”

He says his biggest concern is the ICU capacity, as they already consider Amarillo one of the high-risk regions based on the data.

During today’s health briefing by Amarillo medical experts, Chief Medical Officer at BSA, Dr. Micheal Lamanteer, said they’ve had to extend their primary COVID-19 unit into their medical intensive care unit as well as their cardiac intensive care unit and into their surgical intensive care unit.

They also expanded their intermediate care making them have to choose what patients get an ICU bed.

“And those are not easy decisions. It becomes a triaging scenario that again we don’t have the luxury of being more conservative with folks in saying we are going to keep this person in the ICU longer because we don’t have the luxury to do so, because we have to put the sickest people on those beds,” said Dr. Lamanteer

The hospital is also struggling with staff despite receiving back up nurses from the organization, the RAC.

Currently they have 106 staff in quarantine.

Northwest Texas Healthcare System is not doing much better.

They have 80 staff members quarantined and have had to split the pediatric ward putting adults in half of it and have made an adult ward a complete COVID-19 unit.

In the past, the Amarillo VA has had low numbers compared to BSA and Northwest but is now reporting 228 veterans have tested positive with 17 hospitalized and six in the ICU.

Before, they were offering their nurses help the other hospitals but can no longer do that with their current situation.

The predictions made by the model estimate three weeks until these hospitals are maxed out.

However, it does note these predictions are made with the assumption that people behavior, policies and ICU capacity don’t change, which is why the associate director of the study along with all the local health experts said wearing masks and keeping social distance is more important than ever.

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