Facing staff shortage, South Texas hospitals seek help from nurses amid COVID-19 surge

Vicky Camarillo
Corpus Christi Caller Times

South Texas hospitals are experiencing a shortage of nurses as COVID-19 admissions surge, prompting Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales to issue a plea for available nurses to pitch in.

The COVID-19 resurgence is driven by the delta variant of the virus, which is more contagious than previous strains.

In a statement, Canales said all area hospitals are on divert, which means they cannot accept patients. That includes Corpus Christi, Victoria, Kingsville, Beeville and San Antonio.

The Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District conducts COVID-19 testing at the old Memorial hospital in Corpus Christi on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.

“Every staffed bed is full,” Canales said. “There are beds available but no nursing staff for them.”

Nurses who are not currently working and want to help local hospitals can call 859-396-8204.

Christus Spohn Shoreline Hospital Corpus Christi will hold an open house Tuesday, Aug. 3, to hire registered nurses, new graduates and certified nursing assistants.

The hiring event will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Shoreline Hospital North Tower, third Floor, Auditoriums B and C.

For a limited time, experienced registered nurses in the following positions are eligible for a $20,000 sign-on bonus for a two-year full-time commitment: intensive care unit, neonatal intensive care unit, medical/surgical/telemetry unit, emergency department, operating room, post-anesthesia care unit, cath lab and interventional radiology.

Canales said she has contacted the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Department of State Health Services and will make an official request for assistance.

“This help may take time, or may not be available — there is a shortage of nurses across the state and the entire nation,” Canales said. “Many nurses left the workforce during the pandemic, some due to the workload, and others due to providers which went out of business due to COVID.”

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday issued an executive order further barring local governments from requiring face masks.

Previously, local governments could require face masks if they were in a trauma service area where COVID-19 patients made up at least 15% of hospital patients for seven consecutive days.

Nueces County’s region had a COVID-19 hospitalization rate of almost 8% last week.

The state previously hired staffing companies to send travel nurses and other medical professionals to help with an influx of hospital patients. But last week, officials sent a letter instructing city and county leaders to make their own plans to increase hospital staffs before asking the state for help, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Canales did not immediately respond to the Caller-Times’ request for further comment.

Vicky Camarillo covers Nueces County and statewide issues. See our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe.