A Texas hospital is reportedly so overrun with victims of the novel coronavirus that the sickest patients may have to be “sent home to die,” the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Thursday. The outbreak spreading across the Lonestar State has had a devastating effect on the healthcare delivery system in Starr County.
The report noted that the area, which went three weeks without a confirmed case of COVID-19 at the outset of the pandemic in the United States, is now getting positive cases so quickly that the hospital is unable to meet the needs of the seriously ill. Though the area once earned praise and some national attention for its stringent measures to slow the spread of the virus early on in the pandemic, the situation changed after Texas Governor Greg Abbott made the state one of the first in the nation to start lifting restrictions. He issued orders to reopen the state in May, overriding the county’s orders putting social distancing guidelines in place, the report noted.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the local government has put together a health board that is setting care guidelines and creating a plan for allocating the sparse medical resources, which officials are referring to as a “death panel.” This committee will have the authority to determine whether patients have a chance of survival and will be sending them home if they don’t.
“The situation is desperate,” said Jose Vasquez, the local health authority. “We cannot continue functioning in the Starr County Memorial Hospital nor in our county in the way that things are going. The numbers are staggering.”
Similar decisions have been made in other areas that struggled severely with the virus. As The Inquisitr reported, some of the hardest-struck regions in Italy faced similar shortages of medical supplies and space in hospitals and were forced to consider difficult choices like those now being considered in Texas. In Italy, health experts and leaders drafted a proposal that patients over the age of 80 would be deemed too high-risk and would not receive care.
The Telegraph reported that the protocol would only go in place if cases continued to surge. It was not clear if it ever came to that, as Italy was eventually able to stem the tide of the pandemic through a national lockdown and some of the world’s strictest social distancing measures.
Cases have continued to rise in Texas, which saw new records this week for the daily number of coronavirus deaths.