Starr County hospital turning away COVID patients with low chance of recovery


In a stunning announcement about the dire circumstances in the Rio Grande Valley, Starr County on Tuesday began using an “ethics committee” to determine survival potential of COVID-19 patients. Those with low probability of recovery will not receive treatment at Starr County Memorial Hospital, the county’s only medical facility.

Starr County Health Authority Dr. Jose Vasquez said the difficult discussions and decisions people had feared are now happening.

“There is nowhere to put these patients. The whole state of Texas and neighboring states have no ICU beds to spare for us,” Vazquez said Tuesday afternoon during a video conference call with the media that included Border Report.

“We are going to have these committees reviewing each case,” Vazquez said. “End-of-life decisions and hospice decisions and comfort-care situations for all those patients who most certainly do not have any hope of improving we believe they will be better taken care in the love of their own family and home rather than thousands of miles away dying alone.”

The ethics committee will consist of a patient’s primary care physician, the emergency room doctor or the hospital doctor taking care of the patient, a social worker, and one of the hospital administrators. 

Ethics committees have also been referred to as death panels because of the very serious decisions they are making about life and death. 

The Rio Grande Valley has been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients since the state’s mandatory stay-home order was lifted in May. Vasquez said his county no longer has ICU beds available. 

The federal government has sent surge medical teams to the area.

Vasquez wants a mandatory two-week shutdown. Starr County’s neighbor, Hidalgo County, has issued a new stay-home order, but it is voluntary because Gov. Greg Abbott refuses to allow enforcement by local authorities.

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