Health & Science

Texas Medical Center Exceeds ICU Capacity As Leaders Discuss Future Pandemic Preparedness

Hospitals are switching to Phase 2 operations for the first time since the summer.


Houston Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, on Aug. 28, 2020.

Hospitals in the Texas Medical Center reached 100% ICU capacity Wednesday, pushing them back into surge plans.

Hospitals are switching to Phase 2 operations for the first time since the summer. That means they’re converting regular beds into ICU beds to accommodate the surge.

That benchmark came even as TMC leaders participated in a virtual version of the Greater Houston Partnership's annual State of the Texas Medical Center event.

The TMC is made up of 61 health care institutions, many of which are rivals. But the pandemic taught them to work together, according to Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital.

"One of the things we recognized early on was a need to standardize data reporting and the value of understanding on the frontlines what's going on with this pandemic," Boom said. "Working with each of our teams to say, OK, if we're going to define something as X, let's make sure everybody defines something as X and then we'll report it and we'll report it in real time."

Eric Boerwinkle, the dean of the University of Texas Health Science Center, said that should be applied to fight other diseases as well.

And he said that collaboration should lead to the establishment of what he called a "public health national guard."

He said the world was "caught flatfooted" by the coronavirus, "and we can never let that happen again."

"We'll have the training of public health professionals and the building of a public health infrastructure that will be in the background, frankly, but that will also be ready when the next pandemic comes," Boerwinkle said. "And the next pandemic will come."

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