A little over a quarter of the ICU beds are taken by COVID-19 patents, and hospitals are convertuing regular rooms to critical care.

HOUSTON — All regular ICU beds in the Texas Medical Center are now being used, according to numbers just released on the TMC website, but officials say they can add more.

Hospitals in Houston’s Medical Center will now move some ICU patients to beds not normally used for critical care.

Twenty-eight percent of the ICU patients are being treated for COVID-19.

Even as surge capacity is reached, Houston hospital leaders sent a warning.

“If this trend continues, our hospital system capacity will become overwhelmed,” TMC leaders warned Houstonians in a letter Wednesday.

On Thursday, four CEOs who signed that letter backed off, saying the level of alarm is “unwarranted.”

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The average ICU occupancy rate at the world’s largest medical center is 70 to 80 percent, but higher rates aren’t unheard of.

“It is completely normal for us to have ICU capacities that run in the 80s and 90s,” Methodist Hospital CEO Dr. Marc Boom said. “That’s how all hospitals operate.”

Boom said what’s different now is that more than one in four ICU patients have COVID-19, forcing hospitals to shift the balance of care. 

Boom said there are plenty of beds at Houston Methodist and other hospitals that can be used as ICU beds if needed. Texas Children’s Hospital is accepting adult COVID and non-COVID patients to help ease the burden.

They said the majority of hospitalizations they are now seeing are coming from younger people, but most patients don’t stay at the hospitals long and the death rate is decreasing.

All of the CEOs said Thursday their hospitals are equipped with plenty of PPE and ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients.

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The interview from Boom Thursday was a different tone compared to last Friday when the CEO sent an email to employees saying the Houston Methodist hospital appeared to be “nearing the tipping point.”

“Should the number of new cases grow too rapidly, it will eventually challenge our ability to treat both COVID-19 and non-COVID 19 patients,” Boom said

Thursday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order to ensure hospital bed availability for COVID-19 patients as the number of cases increase at an alarming rate. 

The governor’s order suspends elective surgeries at hospitals in Harris, Bexar, Dallas and Travis counties.

That’s bad news for hospitals that have already taken a huge financial hit because elective surgeries are where they make the most money.

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