Austin nurse: Morale down, hospital beds filling up as Americans hit the road in a pandemic

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As many people ignore public safety warnings and travel for Thanksgiving, many medical professionals won’t have the option of being with family this year.

That’s because hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to rise.

Medical professionals warn that if we don’t take these warnings seriously, hospitals could reach a breaking point in December.

“Every year people like to get together during the holidays, but this year it is different, this year because we have a global pandemic,” said Dr. David Aronoff. “Post Memorial Day we saw it, after the Fourth of July celebrations and now we are anticipating that after this week that we may see more cases.”

Cases are surging across the nation, and also rising in Central Texas.

We still don’t know how holiday travel will affect those numbers, but the outlook could be grim.

An Austin area nurse who wished to remain anonymous tells us work is up and moral is down at the hospital.

“Up until the end of the year they have asked everyone to pick up extra shifts as well as having multiple nurses from travel agencies that work with us,” said the nurse. “The majority of our staff is working overtime and we are still short staffed.”

A strain on the healthcare system with hospitals full of COVID-19 patients could mean patients who need help for other emergencies might get delayed care.

“Once someone shows up after a traffic accident or who has chest pain or some other problem that would require hospitalization, we risk not being able to care for those patients,” Aronoff said.

Austin has also taken COVID patients from other Texas cities where hospitals have reached capacity.

“The majority of our patients aren’t even from Austin they are from the panhandle and West Texas,” said the nurse.

The question remains, will our hospitals be ready if COVID-19 cases continue to rise?

“We need to keep our guard up,” Aronoff said. “The last thing we want to see is the result of what should be a fun and friendly family time coming back together for the holidays and end up in the hospital, disabled or even dying.”

As of Nov. 19 the 2,473 staffed beds within Ascension Seton, Baylor, Scott and White Health and St. David’s HealthCare systems are 79% occupied, and the 483 ICU beds are 85% occupied.

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