Houston hospitals have “reached a breaking point” amid a COVID-19 outbreak, which struck weeks after 150 hospital workers were fired by Houston Methodist hospital, one of several hospitals struggling.
Jennifer Bridges knew what was coming when her director at Houston Methodist hospital called her up in June to inquire about her vaccination status.
Bridges, a 39-year-old registered nurse, responded “absolutely not” when asked if she was vaccinated or had made an effort to get vaccinated. She was terminated on the spot.
“We all knew we were getting fired,” Bridges, 39, told CBS News. “We knew unless we took that shot to come back, we were getting fired today. There was no ifs, ands or buts.”
Bridges was one of more than 150 hospital workers fired by Houston Methodist hospital.
“All last year, through the COVID pandemic, we came to work and did our jobs,” said Kara Shepherd, a labor and delivery nurse who joined Bridges and other workers in an unsuccessful lawsuit. “We did what we were asked. This year, we’re basically told we’re disposable.”
‘Please Send Help Now’
Shepherd and her colleagues may be disposable in the eyes of hospital administrators, but they are perhaps not as easily replaced as she or Houston Methodist thought.
Two months after firing unvaccinated hospital staff, Houston Methodist is one of several area hospitals experiencing a severe shortage of medical personnel. Media reports say hospitals have “reached a breaking point” because of a flood of COVID-19 cases.
In an editorial published Tuesday, the Houston Chronicle said the 25-county hospital area that includes Houston had more patients in hospital beds—more than 2,700—than at any point in 2021. News reports make it clear that hospitals are struggling to keep up.
KHOU-11, a local news station, says medical tents have been erected outside of Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital but are vacant because of a shortage of nurses.
“Please send help now,” said Dr. George Williams (depicted in main photo), chief ICU medical officer for LBJ Hospital.
While most media reports focus on LBJ Hospital, reports also make it clear other hospitals, including Houston Methodist, are experiencing similar struggles. The Houston Chronicle says Harris Health System (which includes LBJ) is short some 250 nurses, while the University of Texas Medical Branch has requested an additional 100 nurses to help address staff shortages at four hospitals.
Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center, a private Houston hospital jointly owned by Baylor College and a local healthcare system, said the hospital “is definitely being impacted” by the nurse shortage.
As for Houston Methodist, the hospital is reportedly struggling as well—although they’ve yet to admit it publicly.
“An internal memo at Houston Methodist Hospital said it ‘is struggling with staffing as the numbers of our COVID-19 patients rise,’” the Chronicle reports.
Public officials are scrambling to address the shortage, which has created a massive patient backlog throughout the Houston area. More than a week ago, Tex Gov. Greg Abbott requested out of state assistance for the statewide crisis, including 2,500 out of state nurses. LBJ Hospital officials said those nurses have not yet arrived.