Dallas-area hospitals will be able to treat all patients with COVID-19 through an expected surge of cases later this month, according to a letter obtained Tuesday evening by The Dallas Morning News.
The letter from the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins likely means a military hospital set up at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will not be used. However, the county is expected to at the least request the continued presence of military doctors already at work in traditional hospitals.
Commissioner J.J. Koch, a Republican who represents most of northern Dallas County, celebrated the news on social media and in an interview with The News.
“It just seems clear we will not need KBH,” Koch said, referring to the initials of the downtown Dallas convention center. “It’d be nice to keep that insurance. But let’s send it to the people who do."
The letter from the hospital council does not explicitly say whether the pop-up hospital at the convention center should be used.
Hospital Council states “we believe the hospitals in Dallas County will have the capacity, on their existing campuses, to handle the expected COVID-19 volumes” - meaning we don’t need the KBH! Great work Dallas County to #FlattenTheCurve!
— J.J. Koch (@JJKoch) April 14, 2020
Whether the hospital would open has been a flashpoint between the county and state.
County commissioners were expected to vote on awarding a $2 million contract Monday to an Oklahoma-based company to help set up the field hospital. However, Jenkins suggested the five-member body wait on spending any more money until hearing from local hospitals.
Jenkins was not immediately available for comment. However, he acknowledged during an afternoon press conference that hospitals had communicated to him they would be able to handle a surge of new cases.
But he said the county could still use the help of military doctors and other personnel who are currently working in traditional hospitals.
“We don’t want to lose the great asset that we have for Texas in these military doctors,” Jenkins said. “But now the request of the military from the governor and myself is to keep those doctors active in the hospitals where they are now. That is good news — the best guess is that we won’t be seeing KBH with the military because they’ll be able to handle their capacity within the walls of their hospitals.”
In March, Jenkins and other health officials worried North Texas could quickly become an epicenter such as New York City or New Orleans. The worst has not happened here. The county has averaged about 100 new cases a day. Hospitals remain at about 50% capacity.
In his letter, hospital council CEO Steve Love credited the response of North Texas as the reason why hospitals likely won’t hit a critical mass.
“We want to emphasize that the stay at home, social distancing and good health habits such as hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces should continue because our models reflect those practices as a static input factor,” he wrote.
County commissioners are expected to meet at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. to discuss the pop-up hospital.
Koch said he hopes the county can now turn its attention to — slowly and safely — reopening the economy.
“By no means am I saying open up the floodgates tomorrow,” Koch said. “It needs to be very targeted. Employers need to be treating worksites very, very carefully.”