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Starr County flying patients out of county due to hospital capacity, low resources

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RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas (KVEO) — Starr County’s only hospital is so full, doctors said they may soon need to select who will be given help because of the lack of resources.

The pandemic has painted a painful picture for those who call Starr County home.

“One month ago the hospital had zero patients, then we went from 8 COVID-19 beds that got full right after the state reopened and then from 8, we went to 17 beds, from 17 we went to 29 and today we have 28 patients, three of them in ventilators on life support,” said Dr. Jose Vasquez, Starr County Health Authority.

Resources have been stretched so thin, Starr County is flying patients out daily to other hospitals.

“There are days worse than others, during the weekend we had 6-7 transfers via helicopter in other places in the state,  but every day there are 2 to 3 transfers through helicopter at least,” said Dr. Vasquez.

The Federal Government, as well as the state, has deployed nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists along with others to assist.

The U.S. Navy Medical Team has also deployed to Rio Grande City.

The outside help that is much needed could stay anywhere from two weeks to months.

However, even with the extra staff, the hospital still needs resources like ventilators for those in critical condition.

Doctors say the lack of supplies has forced them to go into a mass causality situation plan.

“It is the hardest decision any physician can have, we are not Gods, we are not anybody to take a decision of who should live or who should die, however when you have a mass casualty situation there are guidelines to be followed that makes you work in a more efficient manner and to save the more patients within your resources,” said Vasquez.

Vasquez who has been fighting the pandemic since the start and was even diagnosed with the virus himself says doctors will be using that mass casualty plan to determine who will receive treatment at the hospital and who will be allowed to die at home with their loved ones.

“The number of cases in emergency room are going up every day, 50% of emergency room are COVID 19 positive with COVID related respiratory symptoms,” said Vasquez.

Because of the rise in hospitalizations, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera says he will be issuing a Stay-At-Home Order either in the upcoming days, similar to Hidalgo County’s.

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