RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The U.S. Navy is now deploying medical teams to Texas. They're being sent there to support local health workers because the pandemic just continues to get worse there. More than 10,000 new cases are being reported each day. So what are the effects of that number? We have Dr. Jamil Madi with us this morning. He's the ICU medical director at the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley. Thank you so much for being with us, Dr. Madi.
JAMIL MADI: Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: Could you take us inside the ICU where you work? What are you seeing right now?
MADI: Yes. It's been quite a ride in these last several weeks that we've been going through. We've had this surge of patients coming into our hospitals all over the valley, the Rio Grande Valley. And I work in several hospitals. One of them is in Harlingen. And we've had this linear - if I'm not - if I don't want to say exponential - increase in the number of hospitalized patients that end up in the, you know, in the wards, in the emergency room. And a percentage of them eventually end up in the ICUs, and they're quite sick patients.
We have been treating them in and out of the hospital wards and our ICUs. We have to expand. We started off with a couple of units, which we had conventionally. And then we started to expand and have makeshift units all over the hospital. Unfortunately, our hospital capacity right now, we have - around 75% of our patients in the hospital are COVID patients.
MARTIN: Is there one metric? Maybe it's not even official. Maybe it's not even how many beds you have available but something that you use personally to measure how bad things are.
MADI: Well, no - having just the number of patients where we started off a month or so ago with only a few patients in the ICU or a few on the floor and then having 90% - up to 95% of our ICUs being COVID patients is a drastic change.
MARTIN: What kind of patients are you seeing admitted with COVID? Is there a difference in what you'd seen before in terms of age or preexisting conditions, comorbidities?
MADI: Correct. When the pandemic started a few months ago, we had some small surges or outbreaks in the nursing homes, and they were mostly elderly patients, obviously. And we were able to control that. It was fairly controlled. We were able to treat them. Many of them were able to survive that.
What we have right now is completely different. We have patients of all age groups, in their 20s and 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s coming in with either, you know, one comorbidity - they have some hypertension, diabetes. Some of them don't even have any comorbidity. Invariably, though, a large percentage of them have obesity, in whatever form.
MARTIN: Obesity, you're saying.
MADI: Yes, correct, obesity. But remember, you know, our population in that area is largely obese, mostly obese. Of course, also our population is mostly Hispanic. Around 98% are Hispanic. And as you understand or know, that the Hispanic population has been hit hard - in addition to the African American population, which, you know, some statistics and data show that they are three times to be more likely to get infected with the virus and twice likely to be - to die from the virus itself. So, yes, we've been hit hard.
MARTIN: I've heard and read accounts from medical workers who say, you know, back in the spring, it was overwhelming, but we were able to push through because there was this belief it was going to be a circumscribed amount of time, right? It was just going to be a few months of this insane hardship, and then the virus would subside. It just hasn't in any real way. It's gone on for so long. How are your staff holding up?
MADI: Yeah, we were proven wrong. We thought that we were immune in Texas. And in Texas, when we looked at the North, we felt bad for them, and we said we are not going to have that virus. We're going to be OK. But it seems that, you know, it came over, and it came over hard, like a tsunami. So, yes, the staff is really overwhelmed, especially with the sustainability of it. Hopefully, if the people do what they need to do - wash your hands, social distance and all that - maybe we can bring down the rates and the surge.
MARTIN: Dr. Jamil Madi, ICU medical director at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen, Texas, thank you.
MADI: Thank you for having me.
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