Total COVID-19 hospitalizations spike 88% in Hays County. Leaders blame a reporting error

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The number of total COVID-19 hospitalizations in Hays County was underreported by 160 patients, causing the total to nearly double from 181 patients, to 341 patients on Friday.

The drastic undercount was discovered after the Hays County Local Health Department recently received reports that had not previously been counted, according to a county spokesperson.

This triggered an internal audit and detailed reviews, which confirmed the uncounted 160 patients from April to July.

State Rep. Erin Zwiener said she’s still trying to fully understand what went wrong, but that it’s her understanding that the crux of the issue was hospitals not specifically reporting a new hospitalization when a patient came in having already tested positive for COVID-19 at a different healthcare facility.

“The tests conducted by Ascension Seton and any resulting hospitalizations were reported to the county, but other hospitalizations were not required to be reported,” Zwiener said. “The county thought they were receiving a complete hospitalization count, the hospital though they were doing what was required, and the miscommunication didn’t come to light until July.”

It’s unknown if Hays County hospitals other than Ascension Seaton Hays had the same problem, according to Zwiener.

In a statement to KXAN, Ascension Seaton said the error was not on its end.

Because COVID-19 is a communicable disease, a health entity is required to report individuals who test positive for or are suspected to have COVID-19 to the county health department. Hospitals are not required to report to the county health department when an individual with a previously confirmed communicable disease is hospitalized. The entity that tests an individual is required to report that individual’s case to the county where the individual resides.

Ascension Seton reports cumulative numbers of hospitalizations to the Texas Department of State Health Services. This is done by reporting daily admissions, hospitalizations and deaths to EM Resources. Hays County and all other counties have access to their respective county information at the state level. At the request of Hays County, Ascension Seton began providing a daily report with this information to Hays County in August 2020. We continue to provide accurate and timely data to counties that request it beyond our legal requirements.

Ann Houser, Ascension Texas Public Relations Specialist

The 88% increase in total hospitalizations is not currently reflected on the Hays County COVID-19 dashboard, which the county said is a part of a “longer process” that will happen in time.

Currently, there are 19 people hospitalized with coronavirus in Hays County.

“I hope the county will learn from this, demonstrate steps they’ve taken to prevent future errors, and be more transparent and accessible to both local elected officials and the public at large,” Zwiener said.

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