Hidalgo County facing nursing shortage as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase
In response to the recent increase of COVID-related hospitalizations, Hidalgo County is requesting more help from the state to send more nurses.
Hidalgo County Health Authority Dr. Ivan Melendez said the recent surge of the COVID-19 virus has led to a greater need of nurses in the Rio Grande Valley.
“All the hospitals are once again opening up COVID units and wards are getting filled with COVID people," Dr. Melendez said.
In a statement, South Texas Health System confirmed their hospitals were also facing a nursing shortage.
Dr. Melendez said area hospitals started losing permanent local nurses when the state began recruiting nurses –and offering higher salaries - to respond to the pandemic.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez responded to the need of area hospitals by requesting the Department of State Health Services and the Texas Department of Emergency Management to send nurses to the Valley again.
In response to the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Chief of Texas Department of Emergency Management, Nim Kidd, sent a reminder letter on July 29 that reads in part:
"The American Rescue Plan made significant funding available for all counties and cities in Texas...The substantial funding...is available to support...staffing expenses at hospitals, and premium pay for essential workers."
The state's treasury department allocated more than $212 million to Hidalgo County last March. Judge Cortez says the county has only received half of that amount - and he's preparing to allocate it
"We are in the process of allocating the use of those funds to multiple projects that we have,” Judge Cortez said. “I'm not sure if I can tell you exactly what amount has been spent yet, but I'm going to say we spent very little of it as of today."
Now that Valley leaders are aware that the state will not be sending any nurses or human resource help, Dr. Melendez says the region is in a situation that can only be alleviated in two ways.
"One, vaccinations. People need to stop messing around and get vaccinated. Number two we need to partner as best as we can with state and federal partners to assist us in finding personnel,” Melendez said.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information. The changes updated in this article are not reflected in the video.