Capacity of health care system remains stable in Keller, Roanoke and Northeast Fort Worth

For Medical City Alliance and a number of hospitals in the North Texas area, the effect of COVID-19 has been less than it could have been.
For Medical City Alliance and a number of hospitals in the North Texas area, the effect of COVID-19 has been less than it could have been.

For Medical City Alliance and a number of hospitals in the North Texas area, the effect of COVID-19 has been less than it could have been.

Image description
Restrictions related to COVID-19 have created unforeseen obstacles for a number of private practices, such as dental offices.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals across North Texas began to expand capacity and stockpile personal protective equipment for a potential surge in cases that could overwhelm the health care system.

Hospitals prepared to convert new or unused beds for critical care and set up temporary medical tents that could be outfitted for medical treatment, according to Stephen Love, president and CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. Statewide, elective surgeries and procedures were put on hold in an effort to restrict social interaction and prevent hospital overcrowding, Love said.

But with more than 30,000 active cases and 2,000 fatalities as of June 17, coronavirus cases are on the rise in Texas, and the number of hospitalizations statewide has been increasing since early June, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. In the region that includes Dallas-Fort Worth, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 went up by nearly 16% to 765 patients between June 9 and 15.

For Medical City Alliance and a number of hospitals in the North Texas area, the effect of COVID-19 has been less than it could have been, said Matt Eiserloh, director of Communications for Medical City Alliance.

"It is really minimal, overall,” Eiserloh said.


Responding to a pandemic

A number of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council’s 90 members are part of larger systems, such as Medical City Healthcare and Baylor Scott & White Health.

Medical City hospitals have been offering free virtual screenings for the COVID-19 virus to determine a person’s risk level.

“It’s been a very interesting time to be in health care,” Medical City Alliance CEO Glenn Wallace said. “We’ve taken several steps to make sure we are able to respond appropriately to COVID-19.”

To consolidate resources, the Medical City Healthcare system has utilized its Dallas facility to conduct the majority of COVID-19 testing, Wallace said.

All COVID-19 patients at Medical City Alliance are quarantined in a dedicated unit, and their caregivers do not work with other patients to ensure it is safe to enter and work in other parts of the hospital, Wallace said. In addition, Medical City Alliance has enhanced visitor safety procedures by limiting hospital access, he said. All patients and visitors must enter through the emergency room entrance, everyone must wear a face mask or face covering and all patients and visitors are screened for COVID-19 through temperature checks and questionnaires.

“We’re educating patients on the precautions to ensure they’re safe and can come to the hospital if they need emergency care,” Wallace said.

Patient drop-off

One noticeable impact across the entire health care system has been a drop-off in patient numbers—first due to COVID-19 restrictions and then due to hesitance to seek care, along with confusion about guidelines from local and state officials, said Dr. Eric Huang, a dentist with Oasis Dental in Keller.

“We moved from seeing regular patients [in February] to only seeing emergency patients until May 4,” Huang said. “It was a problem when all you could see was, sometimes, only one or two patients per day.”

The decrease in patients has been the biggest challenge for Medical City Alliance as well, Wallace said. Visits to the emergency room decreased 27% overall, which has led to an increase in severe complications and death for all types of patients, he said.

Across the Medical City system, there was a 70% overall drop in calls in April, Wallace said. The large drop-off in patient numbers coincided with a 34% overall decrease in calls to 911 nationwide, according to a National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians survey of 860 EMS agencies.

“We are quite concerned that locally and nationwide people are afraid, in some cases, to call 911,” Love said. “Hospitals and the emergency departments focus constantly on infection control. Rest assured, it is safe to seek emergency medical care with no fear of contracting COVID-19.”

“Make the call ... North Texas hospitals are here to serve you with safe medical diagnoses and treatment. There is no need to be scared, especially if your life depends on it.”

Cost of providing care

Though most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, medical and dental facilities have had to put stringent health guidelines in place.

At dental practices, for example, there is a concern about the spread of aerosol, a fine spray created during treatments. Guidelines require the use of N95 face masks and that lab gowns only be worn once per patient, Huang said.

“It’s about $30 per patient in PPE,” Huang said. “I have to hit every hardware store around the metroplex. But I have to take care of my patients. Some have been with me 20-plus years.”

After additional funds were spent to purchase PPE for employees in preparation for and during the ongoing fight against COVID-19, hospitals’ revenue streams continue to be impacted by executive orders in March and April that required medical facilities to postpone elective surgeries.

Those types of nonessential procedures are a significant part of a hospital’s bottom line, Love said.

“While I can’t comment directly on the financial operations of our hospitals, let me just tell you this. I know from experience: COVID-19 has been a severe financial hit to all hospitals,” Love said June 3.

Love’s comment followed an announcement in late May that Baylor Scott & White Health planned to lay off 1,200 employees, or 3% of the hospital’s total workforce. The decision was a result of a “drastic drop in visits,” the statement said.

Hospital revenue may have also been affected by a dramatic rise in people across the state losing their jobs during the pandemic, Love said. Because health insurance is tied to employment for many Texans, layoffs can lead to fewer people having the insurance they need to cover medical expenses.

“Fortunately, since we started performing surgeries again in late April and May, we have seen an increase in surgical volume,” Wallace said with regard to the financial situation at Medical City Alliance. “We are trying to keep our employees. If we can’t pay them due to decreased volume, we are paying them 70% of normal pay.”

Medical City Healthcare is also attempting to redeploy employees to sister facilities if they are qualified to work in a needed area, Wallace said. There are no COVID-19-related layoffs anticipated across the Medical City system, he said.

Despite the impact of COVID-19, progress continues on a two-story expansion to the Medical City Alliance tower, Wallace said.

“We will take a pause between now and the end of the year on completing actual patient rooms, but we will complete the tower because this is a very fast-growing area for patients in Alliance.”

Daniel Houston contributed to this report.
By Ian Pribanic
Ian Pribanic covers city government, transportation, business and education news for Community Impact Newspaper in the Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth areas. A Washington D.C. native and University of North Texas graduate, Ian was previously an editor for papers in Oklahoma, West Texas and for Community Impact in New Braunfels.


MOST RECENT

Events such as the Fort Worth YMCA Turkey Trot will be held over multiple days to allow social distancing. (Courtesy the YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth)
A laser light show with free hot cocoa and more holiday events in Keller, Roanoke and Northeast Fort Worth

Families will be able to participate in events that use a variety of COVID-19 safety precautions.

D'Ambrosio's #1 Pizza Pub will offer customers a friendly environment to enjoy a more contemporary style of Chicago deep-dish pizza. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
D'Ambrosio's pizzeria opens in Grapevine and more DFW news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Between Nov. 15-21, Tarrant County reported 8,791 new confirmed cases and 1,047 probable cases of COVID-19. (Community Impact staff)
Tarrant County officials urge caution ahead of holidays as COVID-19 cases surge

Between Nov. 15-21, Tarrant County reported 8,791 new confirmed cases and 1,047 probable cases of COVID-19.

On Nov. 7, the state of Texas marked 20 years of daily deaths on state roadways. (Courtesy Fotolia)
TxDOT urges safe driving on Texas roads

On Nov. 7, the state of Texas marked 20 years of daily deaths on state roadways.

The Harris County Multimodal Thoroughfare Plan is a comprehensive effort to assess current and future transportation needs in unincorporated Harris County, including roads for cars and trucks, mass transit, bike lanes and pedestrian routes. (Courtesy Fotolia)
City of Keller attempting to curb accidents at North Tarrant Parkway, Lakeview Drive intersection

The city of Keller is installing a number of upgrades to the intersection of Lakeview Drive and North Tarrant Parkway.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for the state Nov. 23 for a vaccine he said could be available as soon as December. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

The vaccine could start being distributed "as early as next month," according to a Nov. 23 news release.

Fort Worth businesses will be able to pick up free masks over the next three days in downtown by presenting a business card. (Courtesy Pexels)
Free face mask distribution available for Fort Worth businesses

Businesses can pick up free masks beginning Nov. 23.

Voters can cast ballots in person until Dec. 4 for early voting or vote on election day, Dec. 8. (Liesbeth Powers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Everything voters need to know about voting in the Keller mayoral runoff election

Early voting began Nov. 23 for the Keller mayoral runoff election between candidates Tag Green and Armin Mizani.

Autonomous trucking firm TuSimple is coming to North Fort Worth. (Courtesy Hillwood)
Autonomous trucking firm headed to Alliance, North Fort Worth area

Autonomous trucking firm TuSimple is coming to the Alliance area in North Fort Worth near Eagle Parkway and I-35 West.

The city of Fort Worth allocated an additional $3.1 million in October for improvements to Westport Parkway from Keller-Haslet Road to Alta Vista Road and North Beach Street. (Ian Pribanic/Community Impact Newspaper)
Westport Parkway, Beach Street upgrades continue in North Fort Worth

The city of Fort Worth allocated an additional $3.1 million in October.

Laura Colangelo
Q&A: Laura Colangelo discusses challenges facing private schools during pandemic

Colangelo said private schools have adapted to remote learning and other obstacles in 2020 despite less revenue and a 9% decline in enrollment statewide.

A redevelopment project for the former Plano Market Square Mall received unanimous approval Nov. 16 from the Plano Planning and Zoning Commission. (Community Impact staff)
Plano Market Square Mall redevelopment and four more top DFW updates

Here are the five top stories from Community Impact Newspaper’s past week of Dallas-Fort Worth-area coverage.