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‘Surge is here’ in El Paso: UMC records 5 straight days of increasing virus hospitalizations

EL PASO, Texas -- Officials at the University Medical Center of El Paso told ABC-7 they are witnessing a surge of serious illness after confirming that staff admitted 64 patients in one day to be treated for Covid-19, and that the flow of people needing hospital care has been increasing everyday for the last five days.

ABC-7 spoke Monday evening to Dr. Joel Hendryx, the chief medical officer at UMC, to hear more about the surge and how the hospital is managing.

Dr. Hendryx: Our increase has been 200 percent over the last couple of weeks. And it's exponentially growing. Our ER visits have increased, not only with Covid patients but with individuals who are very sick who have to be admitted. So, we have experienced a large number over what we've had in the past and it's- capacity is one of the issues that we're looking at and dealing with.

ABC-7: IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PATIENTS YOU'RE SEEING NOW AND THE PATIENTS YOU WERE SEEING AT THE START OF THE PANDEMIC?

Dr. Hendryx: Yes there is. What we're seeing -- and just as the Dept. of Public Health is saying -- we're seeing younger patients. Younger patients who are having illness, who are needing intensive care and/or needing to be hospitalized. They need oxygen, they need support. So, the good news is, that they get out a little quicker than before, but we do see this surge in younger patients who are needing our care.

ABC-7: DOES UMC STILL HAVE THE CAPACITY TO HANDLE THIS SURGE?

Dr. Hendryx: You know, we do. We have that capacity. We are taking some of our licensed beds that used to be single person beds and we are making them double occupancy for the Covid's so we can manage those, and then we have other areas of the hospital that are pre-op or post-op, there are certain areas where we are able to maneuver and create ICUs for those who are less critically ill, but who are still needing that one-to-one or two-to-one individual care. so we are doing that now to be able to take care of those non-Covid patients who need the critical care as they come to the hospital.

ABC-7: DO YOU FEEL THE URGENCY TO TELL THE PUBLIC ABOUT THE SURGE SO THEY CAN TAKE MEASURES TO SLOW THE SPREAD OF COVID-19?

Dr. Hendryx: People are going to do what they want to do, unfortunately. …Protect yourself. Keep that personal distance. Wear a mask, even with people that you know. Wash your hands, obviously. These are the things that will slowly decrease the amount of the spread of this virus. It is devastating. If you have not had anybody that you know get the virus -- unfortunately I have, and unfortunately, I've seen death among colleagues and individuals and friends and it's very devastating for all and their families.

Dr. Hendryx added that UMC has created 10 to 20 percent more ICU beds. The hospital has not had to cancel elective or non-emergency surgeries -- but that possibility is discussed daily.

El Paso / Health / News / Top Stories

Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.

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