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'We need physicians.' Travis County Medical Society speaks on need for staff as hospital bed occupancy increases

TCMS is looking for physicians with availability and inpatient experience, willing to work temporarily as inpatient physicians, as COVID-19 cases surge.

As Austin-Travis County leaders warn that local hospitals will run out of beds soon, Travis County Medical Society put out a call for help to available physicians on Thursday. 

"We need physicians that are capable of providing inpatient care, and that's the group that I just referred to, internal medicine, doctors, primary care doctors, doctors who have experience with both inpatient and outpatient medicine," said Travis County Medical Society President Dr. Nancy Foster. 

Dr. Foster said she put out this call for help just to be on the safe side but local health officials said the greater Austin area is on the brink of being overwhelmed with patients.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Greater Austin area hit a new record high of 666 COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Wednesday, more than doubling the number from around this time last month.

DSHS data also showed Wednesday marked the fourth day that COVID-19 patients took up 15% or more of the total capacity of Austin-area hospitals. 

If this continues through Jan. 9, Austin's top doctor Mark Escott said that will trigger capacity rollbacks from the state, such as restaurants going from 75% to 50% occupancy.

Foster said she doesn't know how many physicians will be needed but they will take as many volunteers as they can get. Foster said their plan won't activate until it is necessary. 

"I wish one of you could just go to work with me one day and see what I see in my hospital setting," said Foster. "I think it would open your eyes." 

During a weekly press conference Wednesday, Austin Public Health said an alternate care site at the Austin Convention Center is being prepared for possible activation if we run out of hospital beds. 

As of Thursday, state data showed the greater Austin area had about 15% of hospital beds available over the past week and about 10% of ICU beds.

"The only way that this surge will stop is for the community to help us," said Foster.

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