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7 Federal Disaster Medical Assistance Teams Heading To Texas, Including Dallas

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Parkland Hospital says a federal disaster medical assistance team (DMAT) will arrive sometime next week to help with its staffing levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spokesman said the team will work in a variety of roles.

The Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Nim Kidd, said Thursday that team is one of seven such teams that are either coming to or have arrived in Texas to help make sure staffing levels at hospitals are adequate to treat patients. "They've had executive and assessment teams here with us all week and are working with each of our advisory councils and our hospital folks to make sure we get the right level of need at the right time in the right location."

A spokesperson with U.S. Health and Human Services said the teams will be in Dallas, Houston, Austin, Laredo, Midland and McAllen. "These teams will work with local officials to determine the needs of hospitals within their jurisdictions, including the type and number of federal medical personnel needed and for how long. In addition, 72 members from our Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) are pre-positioned in San Antonio, Austin, and McAllen, and will relocate to the hospitals identified during the assessment process as needed for surge support."

The DMAT teams include doctors, physicians assistants, nurses, nurses aides, nurse practitoners, respiratory therapists and paramedics.

The HHS spokesperson said, "All of the deployed will support the medical care needs of COVID-19 patients. Federal support is designed to relieve the pressure on medical staff who work in emergency departments and intensive care units. NDMS personnel typically deploy for up to 14 days.

Staffing is the major concern for many hospitals across Texas as cases and hospitalizations of the virus rise.

Besides HHS, the state is working with the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and FEMA.

For now, Kidd said the state has more than 11,300 general purpose hospital beds and nearly 1,000 ICU beds available throughout the state.

In addition to the federal help, Kidd said the state has brought in more than 2,300 contract doctors and nurses. "Some of them live in Texas, have worked in Texas and some of them are from out of state, and they've been working for several days, maybe a couple of weeks even, in certain areas across the state. The point is we'll continue to ask for more."

He warned though there is not an endless supply of the contract doctors and nurses.

As we reported Monday, the CEO of the DFW Hospital Council said some large hospital systems have transferred patients and staffing from some of their facilities to others.

Kidd said it's become a common practice for patients. "Everyday across Texas, we transfer patients between hospitals to get the right level of care and we transfer patients between nursing homes and hospitals and back to nursing homes again."

Federal funding for five community testing sites, including one in Dallas, is set to expire Tuesday.

Kidd said, "I have not made our official ask for the extension yet. We're talking to them (the federal government) multiple times a day, every day, because what we're trying to make sure is we give the right resource for the public. As it gets hotter outside, people waiting in long drive-thru lines to be tested inside their car isn't as rough as it is on the people that are doing the tests for hours at a time. So what we want to do is make sure we have enough testing resources scattered across the community to be able to do that."

He said the federal government is not backtracking on its support for Texas and pointed to the 980 places across the state where people can get a COVID-19 test.

During a visit to Dallas on June 28, Vice President Mike Pence assured Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas residents that federal support will be there "for as long as the state wants it."

There were 48,000 people in Texas who were tested Wednesday according to Kidd, and it has been as high as 60,000 a day.

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