That was a message a representative from the medical center relayed during a press conference March 24, in which Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Slyvester issued a mandatory stay-at-home order for all Harris County residents working nonessential jobs, which went into effect midnight March 25, and will last through April 3 as the Greater Houston area faces a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Texas Medical Center supported the order in order to help slow spread of the virus and “flatten the curve”, the representative, Houston Methodist Hospital CEO Dr. Marc Boom said during the news conference.
Meanwhile, the medical center’s member institutions, with over 9,200 total patient beds and over 106,000 total employees, have been doing their part to be ready for an influx of new virus cases.
“Every one of our hospital systems is working diligently to do all the things that we need to do to be ready in a situation like this,” Boom said during the conference.
First and foremost, hospitals in the medical district have stopped performing elective procedures to start clearing out capacity and are shoring up supplies.
“We’re focusing on all the supplies, the equivalent, the ventilators that will be in place, and we’re focusing on what I term ‘surge in place capacity,’ which is the ability to expand what we’re able to do within our walls, clearing the way for each of us as we continue to surge,” Boom said. “And we’re even doing planning beyond that.”
Memorial Hermann Health System, a member institution at the medical center, has had its own surge plan ready in such a scenario, said Dr. Angela Shippy, chief medical officer for the health system.
“The plan talks about patients, how we take care of them, staffing models, depending on if they are on the regular floor, or whether they are in the ICU,” Shippy said. “So everything related to the acuity of those patients and their staffing needs.”
Still, while the COVID-19 outbreak remains a fluid and developing situation, there are lessons to take away from how the virus has affected other areas such as China, Japan, Italy, Seattle, New York that could be used in hospital preparedness, Shippy said.
“So we will take that combined learning and utilize it for any surge in the Houston area,” she said.
And as the outbreak spreads, a question that still remains is just how the future will unfold.
“Nobody knows what it’s going to look like,” said Houston Methodist Hospital nurse Molly Cook. “The greatest fear truly lies in the anticipation.”