EDINBURG, Texas – Doctors Hospital at Renaissance is at full capacity and needs additional medical nurses.

That is the message from Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, chief medical compliance officer and board member at DHR Health.

“Currently we have a COVID unit of 19 beds specially made for the public at large. It is at full capacity, right now,” Hernandez said, during a Q&A with reporters at a news conference at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

“We are expanding. As a matter of fact we have had to reallocate personnel and patients in our rehab hospital here in the city of Edinburg. We have had to reallocate resources, move those patients out to be able to deal with the population that is coming in that have tested positive and are asymptomatic.”

The news conference was called by four mayors from the upper Rio Grande Valley to discuss COVID-19. They were Mayor Jim Darling of McAllen, Mayor Richard Molina of Edinburg, Mayor Armando O’Caña of Mission, and Mayor Hernandez of Pharr. Although the event was called so the mayors could speak in their capacity as elected officials, Hernandez was also happy to speak as a leader at DHR Health.

“One of the issues we are having here at this health system and I am sure it is affecting Mission Regional Medical Center, McAllen Medical, Edinburg, Knapp and Rio Grande Regional, is that we are seeing such a high volume of people coming in with symptoms that need to be addressed,” Hernandez said, in response to a reporters question.

“We are limited in nursing staff. That is our biggest problem. We can build tents all we want. We can reorganize public facilities if you want. But without the doctors and nurses it doesn’t mean much. You cannot do anything.”

Bringing in more nurses to cope with the coronavirus is expensive, Hernandez explained.

“At our institution, I know, just by adding 50 nurses, we are spending half a million dollars that was not in our budget, just to take care of our patients.”

Hernandez pointed out that DHR Health will see anybody that shows up at the emergency room.

“We have an open door policy. We take care of everybody. Just like any other medical center in the United States. We are faced with this dilemma of having to shift patients around.”

In answering a reporter’s question, Hernandez spoke about the need for diversions when a hospital is full.

“Obviously if we are full, you go on this thing called diversion where you cannot admit patients. When that happens, which a majority of our hospital systems are currently at, you realize that if your loved ones get into an accident, or have a tummy ache or a heart attack, or a stroke, you name the ailment, that requires you to have acute care, you are going to be in trouble. Because we are at capacity. We are not going to be be able to take care of you.

“And so, without having the proper resources, we are in a bottleneck situation and it is going to put people at risk. So, it is not the surgeries that are the problem, when people come and have surgery, it is the fact that I do not have a physical bed, a nurse to actually take good care of you, hold your hand, give you your medication, and address your medical needs. So, it becomes a major economic issue, for all health systems, including Doctors Hospital at Renaissance.”

Hernandez was asked to comment on a news release issued last Monday by the Texas Hospital Association which appeared to downplay the capacity issue at hospitals in the Lone Star State. 

“Texas hospitals have ample capacity right now, and they are open, safe and ready,” the news release stated. “Texas hospitals are managing the current rate of hospitalizations. But if this trend continues, it is not sustainable.”

Hernandez responded:

“There is capacity but what is not being divulged is, yes, you have this room but I still need my doctors, my nurses, my respiratory therapists, I need these people to come and work. If they are getting sick, which is what we are seeing, my ER doctors and nurses, well they come off the shelf. They are no longer in circulation. So I am in a bigger deficiency. I am going to have to bring agency nurses in or people from other areas that are not as affected as heavily as we are and pay them much more money to get them here, for a budget we did not account fo. So, it is not as simple as, yes, we have capacity. Yes, we do have capacity but we have manpower issues.”

More nurses coming

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez

On Sunday, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez issued a news release saying he had reached out to the state leadership for more nurses. 

“Responding to an emergency request by Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez, the State of Texas early Sunday said it would be sending nurses from other parts of the state to bolster the staffing of at least one Hidalgo County hospital,” the news release stated.

Cortez said: “We have been monitoring our hospital capacity and have concluded that the medical workers who are working tirelessly in our community could use additional help. Therefore, late Friday I asked the Governor and the State’s Emergency Management Operation for help by providing additional medical personnel. This is welcome relief at a time when the number of people needing hospital care continues to rise.”

The news release said details of the support are still being worked out. “The hospital receiving the support is not being immediately named, but all area hospitals are working together to secure support,” it stated.

Cortez said additional positive cases are currently being compiled and processed by Hidalgo County epidemiologists and are expected to be reported later Sunday reflecting results from all weekend.

Sunday’s announcement by Cortez comes as the Hidalgo County Office of Emergency Management issued a countywide alert urging residents to stay at home for their safety. The alert read:

“ATTENTION: The COVID-19 virus continues to spread across Hidalgo County. Please stay home. Protect yourself and others. If it is necessary to leave home, wear an appropriate facial covering and avoid gatherings with those outside your household. STAY HOME. STAY SAFE. STOP THE SPREAD. A message from the Hidalgo County Office of Emergency Management.” 

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