Protect Access to Healthcare in West Texas

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*This is a grassroots initiative of individual healthcare workers and other concerned citizens of Lubbock and West Texas. Views in this letter represent only that of the individuals who have signed; they have no connection with any organization or employer with whom they may be affiliated.*

Dear Governor Abbott,

Thank you for your assistance with handling the COVID pandemic in West Texas, particularly here in Lubbock. The Blue-Med tents, extra staffing, and other support materials are greatly appreciated. We also await with immense anticipation the new drug, Regeneron, to be given as soon as it arrives. We have already developed a workgroup to decide who the most appropriate patients are to receive this drug.

Since Lubbock is the medical hub providing tertiary care for the rural communities of our region, the escalating crisis affects our ability to care for Texans in small rural communities throughout our catchment area. The consequences of local hospitals being overwhelmed go far beyond simply not being able to treat the sickest patients with COVID. When our major tertiary referral centers are full, we cannot provide lifesaving interventions to patients having heart attacks, strokes, complications in childbirth, or a host of other life-threatening medical problems. We also contain the region's only Level 1 trauma center; our ability to save the lives of our community when they are injured on the highway or in workplace accidents, is seriously compromised. These deaths, while not from COVID, are indirectly the result of lack of access to care because of COVID, and their numbers are not insignificant.

While the crisis in available hospital beds is dire, the lack of staff is an even greater threat to our ability to survive the coming months. As nurses, physicians and therapists get sick while working in hospitals full of COVID, it is increasingly difficult to retain skilled and experienced staff in these roles. Our staff are demoralized, tired and frustrated facing what seems like a never-ending battle that cannot be won with no end in sight. The workforce shortages that result will affect our ability to provide medical care in West Texas, long after the pandemic is over. We must slow down the pre-hospital infection rate.

We realize that shutting down the economy is not an option; nor would we want it to be. We do not believe that schools should be closed. However, there are several steps that can be taken now that, as an enforceable mandate, would slow the avalanche descending on our local hospitals. While this will not immediately resolve our crisis, it will allow more time to build capacity to care for the medical needs of the people of West Texas. In order to be effective, these requirements should remain in effect as long as the hospital’s COVID occupancy remains above the 15%ile. We respectfully request that you consider enforceable mandates of:

1. Wearing of masks in both indoor and outdoor public spaces.

2. Restrictions on gatherings to 10 people or less, both indoors and outdoors.

3. Stop after-school and extra-curricular in-person group activities for children, while keeping school open.

4. Limit numbers at each table and mandate minimum distances between tables, at public areas with food and drink.

We appreciate your support of the health and welfare of the people of West Texas.

Signed,