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South Texas cities sending COVID-19 patients to Lubbock hospital

Hospitals in Lubbock, the largest medical hub between Dallas and Albuquerque, are relieving capacity stress from elsewhere in the state.

"Just yesterday alone, we actually had two transfers from the Houston area," said Walt Cathey, CEO of Covenant Health's Lubbock Market. "This last weekend, we had a transfer from San Antonio and another transfer from Laredo.”  

Cathey said the hospital on Wednesday alone admitted 31 patients from outside of its region.  


“So, 68% of our patients that are coming into our ICUs are actually not part of Lubbock County,” the administrator added. 


As of Thursday morning, Covenant Health was treating 68 patients with COVID-19 complications. They’re spread throughout the hospital system, including 16 patients in Plainview. 


Covenant Health is used to serving a large area. But as facilities across the state fill up with patients, administrators are having to find new places for them to go. For now, Lubbock has the space.  


“You very rarely ever see a patient from South Texas end up in Lubbock," Cathey said. "But we’re in one of those weird situations where Houston was full, then maybe San Antonio was full and they keep going further and further away, just from a geography standpoint, till they find somebody who can take them.”   


Health facilities across the state are operating at surge capacity. Houston, Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, even nearby Midland-Odessa are all strapped for space.  


Lubbock has seen an increase in hospitalizationsin recent weeks, but capacity and resources to care for coronavirus patients is holding strong.  


Texas Health and Human Services reports the Lubbock trauma service area is currently caring for 124 confirmed COVID-19 patients. That includes people from outside of Lubbock County, which reported 101 hospitalized citizens on Thursday. There are 314 floor beds and 21 ICU beds available.  


Multiple regions in South Texas reported single-digit open ICU beds Thursday.  


“Really, from a hospital capacity standpoint, I think in Lubbock County, we’re really well-served," Cathey said. "We really haven’t hit the threshold that you’re seeing in Houston and South Texas areas right now.” 


Dr. Craig Rhyne, chief medical officer of Covenant Health, adds that the region needs to keep using recommended COVID-19 prevention practices so Lubbock can continue to help the state.  


“Other parts of Texas clearly have not been as lucky as we are,”  Rhyne said.


Hear more about Texas hospital capacity in this recent report from Houston Public Media

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