Last weekend, Starr County Memorial Hospital received a refrigerated truck that will serve as a mobile morgue if the number of COVID-19 deaths there become overwhelming.
Dr. Jose Vazquez, the county’s health authority, said the hospital has, fortunately, not needed to use the mobile morgue yet but Starr County Judge Eloy Vera requested the truck from the state.
“Basically the situation is we don’t have a morgue in our hospital, we don’t have a refrigerated room for bodies and the funeral homes are running at capacity too,” Vazquez said. “They are finding it difficult to meet the demand.”
Without one, the county could have faced a significant sanitary problem, Vazquez said.
Before acquiring the truck, Vazquez said they found themselves in a situation of not knowing where to dispose of a patient’s remains.
The patient was an unidentified, an undocumented woman in her 20s.
“We didn’t have a way to dispose of her remains and in the end it ended in one of those mobile units, but in (Doctors Hospital at Renaissance),” he said. “In lieu of that, we kind of took the suggestion from the state to get one of those units here so the judge requested.”
The unit has the capacity for 50 bodies and, if the hospitals have to use it, the remains will be stored there until funeral homes have the time and availability to handle them.
“Just on the presumption and in an abundance of caution, we chose to have it here in case that the situation was to arrive,” Vazquez said. “So we have, at least, a sanitary way to dispose of those remains without causing a further problem in the health of the county.”
As to the general situation at the hospital, Vazquez said the volume of COVID-19 hospitalizations keep rising.
The hospital is now at full capacity, with all of its 29 COVID-19 beds occupied.
There are two regular, non-coronavirus beds available that might have to be used for virus patients, if they run out of other options.
“Other than that, basically start keeping patients in the emergency room until the emergency room is full and at that point, it’s going to be a tough situation,” Vazquez said.
The hospital also has six intubated patients that need to be transferred because Starr County Memorial Hospital does not have intensive care unit services.
“So we are reaching the place where we don’t want to be,” Vazquez said, “where we have all of our beds taken by the COVID units — many of those and ventilators — and basically, nowhere to put more patients.”