How Cy-Fair hospitals are preparing for a potential coronavirus surge

Officials at four major hospitals in the Cy-Fair area said they have been preparing for a possible surge in patients for weeks. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Officials at four major hospitals in the Cy-Fair area said they have been preparing for a possible surge in patients for weeks. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

Officials at four major hospitals in the Cy-Fair area said they have been preparing for a possible surge in patients for weeks. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)

Leaders with several of the largest hospitals in the Cy-Fair area expressed confidence in their ability to handle the projected increase in coronavirus cases in the coming weeks.

While officials have cautioned it is hard to predict exactly what the future holds in terms of a potential surge, recent modeling suggests future increases will be manageable, said Keith Barber, chief executive officer of Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital.

We believe that with the way Houston is handling social distancing, the projections that we’re seeing around the swell factor, and the effectiveness we’ve done as a community with flattening the curve, we will be well prepared for what will come," Barber said in an April 9 phone interview. "All these are based on estimates. None of us have a crystal ball at this time."

Having stopped elective procedures to free up resources for COVID-19 patients, the Willowbrook Hospital is at about 50% capacity as of April 9, Barber said, with roughly 170 of the hospital's 350 beds filled.

"We're not just freeing up beds but freeing up personnel to reallocate them," Barber said.

In a recent interview with Community Impact Newspaper, Barber also spoke about the hospital's ability to transfer patients, if necessary, to the Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center or to the system's Katy location, which features a highly infectious disease unit.

Officials with each of the four main hospitals in the Cy-Fair area—Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital, Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital, HCA Houston Healthcare North Cypress and CHI St. Luke's-The Vintage Hospital—said preparations for a coronavirus surge have been weeks, if not months, in the making.

Jade Waddy, a senior media relations representative with Memorial Hermann, said hospital officials in Cypress are confident in their ability to keep the hospital staffed and treat patients.

"Memorial Hermann has set up dedicated COVID-19 response units across all of our 11 acute care hospitals," Waddy said. "We also have the ability to expand our capacity across the system as needed."

Meanwhile, officials with HCA said all 13 of their Houston-area hospitals have the bed capacity, staffing and equipment to provide care. Preparations to this point have included rescheduling procedures and converting hospital beds into intensive care unit beds when necessary.

"We are doing everything possible to secure products, as the worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment, including masks, face shields, and gowns, is a reality that we are addressing with realistic, workable solutions," officials said in a statement.

At St. Luke's, officials said they have identified locations where infected patients can be cared for while avoiding exposure to the general patient population.

If there do end up being concerns about capacity, hospital officials said they have created networks with academic health partners, public health and and other health systems in the Cy-Fair community to ensure patients who need care can get to a facility that has space.

Calling on the community

Barber said the hospital has been receiving donations from the community on a daily basis, including food donations for doctors and staff. Moving forward, he stressed the importance of the community keeping up with social distancing.

One of the best thing you can do to invest in the hospitals right now is to practice social distancing," he said.

That call was echoed by Memorial Hermann.

"We are absolutely calling on the Greater Houston community to continue to practice social distancing and good hygiene during this time," Waddy said.

Memorial Hermann has a steady supply of personal protective equipment for health care workers, but Waddy said the system is also accepting donations to help maintain that supply. Donations—including alcohol wipes, bleach wipes, face shields, isolation gowns, medical grade N95 masks, sanitation wipes, sanitizer, shoe and boot covers and surgical masks—can be dropped off at the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza, 7500 Beechnut Street, Ste. 160, between 9am-2pm on weekdays.

St. Luke's is also accepting donations of medical grade masks, which officials said are currently the greatest need. Community members who are interested in donating are encouraged to contact John Marx at [email protected].
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.