EL PASO, Texas -- After a weekend that saw hospital diversions for the first time in the Borderland due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, El Paso's top emergency management official said Monday the capacity issue is a lack of staffing - not hospital beds.
Deputy Fire Chief Jorge Rodriquez, who also serves as El Paso's Emergency Management Coordinator, made the comments during a meeting of the County Commissioners Court.
He told commissioners that he believes there is enough bed space within El Paso's hospitals, but indicated there is a shortage of medical staff to tend to patients in those beds.
"We still have plenty of bed capacity," Rodriquez said at the meeting. "The focus right now is working with the state to try to augment staffing for the hospitals.”
Although Rodriquez maintained there are currently plenty of available hospital beds, state of Texas data over the weekend had showed there were just 32 open spaces in El Paso's hospital intensive care units.
That data released on Saturday came as Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare began diverting patients, which the hospital group acknowledged was due to a surge of virus patients that had resulted in a record number of hospitalizations.
As of Monday morning, hospitalizations had reached yet another a new peak of 285 in El Paso - an increase of 34 patients over the two-day period since diversions began on Saturday.
Although the only known diversions have involved Las Palmas Del Sol, a spokesman for University Medical Center said the surge was impacting all of El Paso's hospitals.
Hospital diversions can pose challenges to patient care, a cardiologist at Las Palmas Del Sol told ABC-7 on Monday afternoon.
“If you are moving a patient from one facility to another, it's not just a matter of transportation itself. How stable is that patient to be able to transfer?" asked Dr. Juan Taveras.
He explained, "Some hospitals are very well versed at doing trauma, others at handling cardiac issues. We have surgeons and good cardiologists all around town. It's not the same thing in every hospital, some hospitals don’t have services for cardiac patients.”