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Austin-area doctor gives insight on what it's like in hospitals as bed capacity plummets

"One of the biggest difficulties is, locally, all the hospitals are full," said Dr. Greenwood.

AUSTIN, Texas — As ICU bed capacity has plummeted in the Austin area, local doctors fear there won't be space for anyone else who needs treatment. 

State data shows that there are just 13 beds available for a population of about 2,375,407. That's the lowest ICU bed capacity since the start of the pandemic. Keep in mind it's not just COVID-19 patients in the ICU. 

RELATED: Austin-area ICU capacity reaches lowest point since start of COVID-19 pandemic

Dr. Nathaniel Greenwood is the Chief Medical Officer for Family Hospital Systems. He said they've had to send patients to Houston and San Antonio and even that has been difficult.

"In my career of practicing emergency medicine for the last 16 years, I've never been in a situation where I call up a hospital and multiple hospitals and I'm told, 'I'm sorry, we don't have a bed for you,'" said Greenwood. "You call the next one and the same thing, the same thing. It's definitely scary."

The ER doctor said the shortage of nurses isn't helping either. Even if there were more beds, there most likely wouldn't be enough nurses to attend to them. 

On the plus side, Family Hospital Systems has antibody treatments to help COVID-19 patients recover faster. Greenwood said this factor, along with vaccines and more PPE, separates this surge from surges in 2020.

Greenwood said this year they've given 198 monoclonal antibody infusions to patients with COVID-19. Seventy-six of those treatments happened in the month of July. 

"A lot of our patients who are sick with COVID-19 have not gotten the vaccine," said Greenwood. "I wish more people would get vaccinated." 

This week Ascension and Baylor Scott and White Hospital Systems announced employees must get the COVID-19 vaccine. Family Hospital Systems hasn't jumped on board just yet. 

RELATED: Baylor Scott & White Health, Ascension employees now required to get vaccinated

"That's something that we discuss on an everyday basis, whether or not to mandate or not," said Greenwood. "We do accept that our employees have a choice in the matter."

Jared Pope is the CEO and founder of Work Shield, a company that aids in workplace issues. He said they've seen a huge increase of not only hospitals but other business sectors seeking guidance on how to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine. 

RELATED: Gov. Greg Abbott doubles down on mask and vaccine mandate ban in new executive order

"So it ranges construction all the way down to oil and gas and automotive dealers," said Pope. "So let's just say our inbox is full." 

Greenwood said his biggest fear is there will not be any room for the sick. 

"My biggest fear is the really sick patients that aren't necessarily sick with COVID-19, but whether it's, you know, appendicitis or a heart attack, that the access to care will be limited for those people as well as our COVID-19 sick patients," said Greenwood. "So it's just kind of scary."

Greenwood said he does see a light at the end of the tunnel.

"We know other countries in the world who are faced with the delta variant have gotten through it, and so I'm confident that we'll be able to get through it," said Greenwood. 

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