Houston's only open trauma center burdened by patient load
The Nando Times
By JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press
HOUSTON (July 2, 2001 9:56 a.m. EDT) - Sunday was a day of rest for many, but not for the staff at Ben Taub General Hospital.
There's been little rest at the hospital since flooding last month from Tropical Storm Allison severely hampered medical care in Houston and left Ben Taub as the only facility in the nation's fourth-largest city to treat the severest trauma cases.
On Sunday, so many ambulances brought people to the hospital that they had to park in the street because there was no space near the emergency room's entrance.
A woman complaining of chest pains was examined by a doctor in a hallway because all the holding areas and examining rooms overflowed with patients. Then a voice over an intercom system announced that several more patients from a car accident were on their way.
Several floors up, at least eight patients waited to be operated on - but there was barely staff for more than one operating room. Nurses in an intensive care unit tried to care for two and sometimes three critically ill patients, despite guidelines saying they should handle just one patient at a time.
"Last Thursday night, I came close to closing our doors and telling people they had to take their patients to San Antonio or Dallas or Beaumont. But because there's no other option, we haven't done that," Kenneth Mattox, the hospital's chief of staff, said Sunday.
Houston's other trauma center, Memorial Hermann Hospital, has been closed since it was flooded June 8. Two other major emergency rooms - at St. Joseph Hospital and The Methodist Hospital - also remain closed because of flooding. Officials at Memorial say they hope to reopen by mid-July.
The Texas Medical Center, where Ben Taub is located, were also damaged by flooding, but Ben Taub itself was largely spared.
Allison was blamed for 22 deaths in southeast Texas, and an estimated $5 billion damage in Houston. The medical center itself suffered an estimated $2 billion in damage.
A nursing shortage plaguing Ben Taub and other hospitals across the country has been intensified by the increased patient load.
"We're used to working hard, but we can only do so much," said Colleen Mosby, assistant nurse manager in the hospital's emergency department.
The emergency room normally needs a staff of 13 nurses. Sunday night, it was expected to have only nine nurses; on other evenings, that number has dropped to seven.
"The patients just keep coming in," nurse Mary Casper said. "You just cross your fingers and hope you do a good job."
Houston Nurses: What's happening in your facilities? If you are closed, are you still getting paid? Working agency?? Let us know what's happening and if we can help you. Karen
Jul 3, '01
Thanks for the offer NRSKAREN...
The hospitals that were closed actually have many different campuses that the workers are at. Memorial Herman, the hardest hit is buit one hospital in that chain here in Houston, they have 7 other hospitals here in town that the displaced nurses are working at..everything form a 60 bed place to a couple that are 500+ beds. no nurses were put out of work by the storm.
And as for the closing of one of the Level 1 trauma centers, we actually have a another hospital that has taken over as that level 1 facility in everything but name. they changed one of their ICU's into a trauma unit and built a couple of more heli pads, and they have neuro and cardiac and trauma docs and surgeons there at all times. They are handling it quite well. I have a few freinsds that work there and they see no change in the quality or wait times of the patient care being given.
Jul 3, '01
This must have made it into TV or radio news, because yesterday I had two patients family members tell me about it and ask if the nursing shortage was really that bad. I simply answered yes, and it is going to get worse. Then the families wanted more information, and I was happy to provide it. I'm glad you posted this Karen because I hadn't actually seen or heard a report on it. Just what I had gotten from the family members. Thanks
Jul 3, '01
It is my understanding that Texas is one of the hardest hit states due to our large and spread out land mass. Plus, the "cities" seem to have it worse than the "country" areas in the eastern half of the state, with the west and south bad in all areas. This is why TNA has been having the town hall meetings and lobbied so hard this legislative session for more money to support schools, grants, teachers of nursing, etc. However, they have yet to support (in legislature) staffing guidelines, relief from mandatory overtime, or work place conditions. While they support these programs throught other avenues, they will not support them through legislation. Combine this with the fact that Texas has a poor medicaid reimbursement rate, and a large number of non-insured/underinsured people, not to mention the "uncounted" illegals or migrant workers, etc. who won't seek help out of fear, you add a large population that requires more care than we can offer. There has been a call out for nurses to volunteer to work in HOuston under the circumstances that I am aware of, even if for short periods of time. This information is available on the TNA web site.
Jul 3, '01
I had talked with some rural Texas nurses at the ANA convention, and they seemed to agree with Dplear -that the situation had settled down by the time of the ANA convention. I remember reading Dplears' thread about the floods here a couple of weeks ago and was hoping things were okay by now; now I'm confused. Was Ben Taub General hit worse that your hospital, Dplear?
Jul 4, '01
Ben Taub was not hit bad at all Jenny, It was Memorial Herman that was hit the hardest...latest estimate of damage to that hospital alone...3 BILLION dollars...thats right a 3 with nine zeros afterwards...a hell of alot of damage. I heard recently that Memorial Herman may not open for a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time...several months at the least to possibly longer if ever....makes you think doesn't it. thanks for the concern
And barbara Rose...PLEASE GET OFF the town hall TNA thing about this...they could not have done anyhting about the flood...it was an act of God and not created by administration. And The TNA is NOT calling for Vol. to work i Houston...that was a call by the Mayor of Houston for temporary relief in setting up aid stations in the aftermath of the storm. SO ENOUGH preaching please.
Also as a side not a GREAT kudos is deserved by the 596th Evac hospital of the US AIR FORCE. This is the first time in history that a US ACTIVE duty military hospital has had to set up in the States and treat civilians like this. They were capable of taking anyhting that showed up including Level 1 trauma if needed..they had full surgical and medical set up, and they billed FEMA for any costs...all pt care was free to the patient including any medicine that was predcribed for discharge...THANKS US AIR FORCE (proud formr=er member of the blue machine myself..combat medic and nurse)
Jul 4, '01
Big round of applause to those to do disaster planning yearly in our communities. You never know when or where something may happen. It pays to be proactive! Three cheers to Houston planners, Med Evac and National Guard members everywhere.
Jul 4, '01
I guess the reason I was wondering about the Ben Taub General Hospital was because that is the hospital that the article at the beginning of this thread is about; and it's dated July 2nd. And now that I've re-read the article, I see I misread it.
What are all of the nurses from Memorial Herman doing now? Have they been transferred to other hospitals within that system? I can't imagine what it would be like except to relate it to our Red River of the North flooding out Grand Forks, No. Dak., and East Grand Forks, Mn. several years ago.
You are right in thanking all of the 596th Evac Hospital of the US Air Force and all of the other volunteers that helped. There should be special places in heaven for those that volunteer (or are working) in situations like this. I hope your city recovers.
Jul 5, '01
"And barbara Rose...PLEASE GET OFF the town hall TNA thing about this...they could not have done anyhting about the flood...it was an act of God and not created by administration. And The TNA is NOT calling for Vol. to work i Houston...that was a call by the Mayor of Houston for temporary relief in setting up aid stations in the aftermath of the storm. SO ENOUGH preaching please."
It seems somehow I have offended you. First, the town hall meeting were from a different post, so if that is what you are upset about, sorry but mandatory overtime is a problem in Texas just like the rest of the country. And, in this post I was talking about the nursing shortage as it affects Texas; that also includes all of us. Now, second, I don't know where you think I said that TNA had anything to do with the flood. There is or was a banner on the TNA web site for a call for nurses; they asked as well as the red cross, the governor, the mayor, churches, etc. People always ask whenthere is a diaster. I don't understand what you are upset about, but I will apologize if I said something to offend. Seems to me that perhaps I shouldn't have a voice at all by your post. I re-read and didn't see any preaching, and if it's because you think that I am for/against the TNA or anything else, I don't know. I am a nurse, I happen to live and work in Texas and I am concerned about nursing not just here but in this country. I don't live in HOuston, I have visited often. I am sure those of you who live and work there have just as many different experiences as those of us in other parts of the state. But we are all nurses.
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