Hospital in Rio Grande Valley could make decisions based on patient’s chances of survival

Starr County Memorial Hospital at full capacity, transferring patients to other cities

STARR COUNTY, Texas – There is a growing COVID-19 crisis just south of San Antonio in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Emergency rooms are holding patients for hours or days because, basically, we do not have any rooms inside the hospital to put those patients,” said Dr. Jose Vazquez, Starr County health authority.

About 70,000 people live in Starr County, and more than 1,600 of its residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

The county only has one hospital.

“They are being transferred out of the Valley and sometimes out of state. They have gone to far away places just to die thousands of miles away from their home and from their loved ones,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez said the county has limited resources.

Starr County Memorial Hospital said its COVID-19 unit is filled with 29 patients. Its emergency room is also filled with more who have tested positive for the virus. As of Wednesday morning, the hospital held nine patients for admission and transferred two patients to San Antonio hospitals.


Vazquez said the hospital is looking at forming an ethics committee. The team will have to make difficult decisions based on a patient’s chances of survival.

“If we determine that the patient had a very, very small chance to make it alive, (we have) to discuss with that family and present the options, that perhaps it’s more sensible for the patient and for the family ... to go to their home and to offer end of care, end of life care, and compassionate care to them,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez said medical staff from the state and the U.S. Navy are helping the county. He said by the end of the week, the county could issue a shelter in place order.

Neighboring Hidalgo County has already issued a county order mandating people to stay at home and shelter in place. As of tonight, 400 people have died of COVID-19 in Hidalgo County.

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