EL PASO, Texas — A prominent local doctor says short staffing at El Paso hospitals is contributing to overcrowding and delays as the city is in the midst of another Covid-19 spike.
El Paso has the highest covid hospitalization rate in the state at 17.13 percent, according to the state health department website. Right now, the City of El Paso’s Covid data dashboard shows there are 336 Covid hospitalizations and 105 people in the ICU.
Dr. Edward Michelson, chief of emergency medicine at University Medical Center, says about 75-percent of those in the hospital with Covid are unvaccinated.
Michelson says hospitals currently have enough space to accommodate this surge. Hospitals are converting regular hospital to ICU beds when necessary.
“We really haven’t run out because we keep finding new places to provide the care that isn’t in our traditional ICU,” Michelson explained.
But short staffing at the hospitals is creating a lot of pressure on beds.
“No one is being turned away. There’s no one that is not getting care, but the delays are there that we would prefer not to be there. And it’s not just here, it’s across the city,” Michelson said.
The doctor says a lot of hospital staff became tired and retired during the pandemic. Also, the rise of contract nursing took a lot of nurses away from the hospital. Contract nursing allows nurses to go to highly impacted areas to work for months at a time at a much higher salary than their full-time job.
Michelson does not feel that El Paso will see the same overcrowding that forced hospitals to put makeshift tents outside their building last year. But there is concern that there will be some delays in care.
“I do see stressed hospitals that are very crowded. And long wait times. Some wait times for elective surgery. Longer than usual wait times to be seen in the ER. Longer than usual times to get admitted into the hospital,” Michelson explained.
Elective surgeries will also most likely be affected soon, Michelson said.