Dr. David Callender, CEO of the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, told CNBC on Friday that his hospitals continue to be adequately equipped despite the growing coronavirus outbreak in Texas.
“Actually, we still believe that we have a great ability to meet the demand for Covid, as well as for non-Covid patients,” Callender said in “The Exchange.” “We are always busy in the summer and what we are seeing now is a typical summer for us.”
Callender, whose nonprofit health system has 17 hospitals in the Houston area, stressed that the capacity of the medical network is “constantly changing” and needs to be managed. “But right now, we can do very well,” he said.
Callender’s comments came shortly after Texas Governor Greg Abbott withdrew part of the state’s reopening plans, following a spike in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks. Bars in the state had to close to drink on the premises before noon on Friday. As of Monday, restaurants cannot exceed 50% of the dining capacity.
And on Friday, Lina Hidalgo, executive director of Harris County, where Houston is located, issued a “stay home” notice and raised the county to the highest threat level for Covid-19.
As of Friday afternoon, Harris County had 27,017 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 17,350 of which were active, according to the county health department. The Texas Department of State Health Services estimates that, overall, the state has about 55,000 active Covid-19 cases.
On Thursday, Abbott also temporarily postponed elective medical procedures in some Texas counties to preserve the hospital’s capacity, including Harris, Dallas, and Travis, which is the home of the city of Austin. Bexar, where San Antonio is located, was also included in Abbott’s order.
The Hermann Memorial Hospital system is seen on Sunday night, May 3, 2020 in Houston.
Matt Patterson | AP
Callender, explaining his confidence in the hospital’s capacity, said the system is “used to dealing with complex patients” and believes it will be able to adapt to increased demand.
“In our system, we have about 4,000 beds that we can put into play” for intensive care, he said. “Right now, only about 30% is being used for Covid care, so we still have a lot of capacity for Covid patients as well as patients needing hospitalization for other illnesses.”
Doctors and nurses have also learned how to better treat Covid-19 patients after three months of its presence, said Callender, who joined Memorial Hermann in 2019.
“We are seeing a slightly lower rate in terms of the number of typical hospital bed patients who become a need for ICU hospitalization. We are also using ventilators less frequently,” he said. “We have more drugs available than we know that help limit the severity and duration of the disease. So overall, we’re doing better than we were a couple of months ago.”
But finally, Callender emphasized the importance of Texans following public health protocols to avoid becoming infected with Covid-19.
“We need people to wear masks. We know they are effective. We stopped the transmission of Covid-19 in our hospitals by wearing masks, maintaining proper social distance, washing our hands, and keeping sick employees at home,” he said. .
“If we do that,” he added, “we know that we can severely limit the spread of this disease.”