Harris County Commissioners Court Approves $30 Million To Procure More Nurses For Strained Hospitals

Harris County, Texas – The Harris County Commissioners Court has approved a $30 million procurement to bring more nurses into Houston-area hospitals that have been struggling with personnel shortages. The unanimous vote came in an August 24 meeting and aims to provide nurses to any hospital that needs them regardless of status as nonprofit, for profit, or state funded.

The money will come from Harris County’s allotment from the American Rescue Plan Act, the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill that was passed in March 2021. County Judge Lina Hidalgo said that the $30 million that was approved is a maximum amount and not all the funds will necessarily be used.

The county is negotiating a contract with SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council (SETRAC) to find and hire the nurses. SETRAC is a nonprofit that works broadly to improve the effectiveness of healthcare and is a chartered entity of Texas Department of State Health Services.

“SETRAC has been working on identifying where nurses are needed the most, and how to provide those nurses to those hospitals, and begin saving lives as soon as possible,” Hidalgo said in the meeting. “These nurses could be here within 72 hours; we need to hurry up and get that out the door.”

Hospitals were dealing with nurse shortages before COVID-19 put added strain on their operations and the pandemic has made the situation more dire. In a reversal of a problem from the early days of the pandemic, hospitals in the Houston area collectively have more than enough ICU beds to treat the incoming COVID-19 patients, yet do not have enough nurses to staff them.

Hidalgo said her office has reached out to the federal government for additional assistance but federal agencies have not committed to any specific action. She plans to provide an update on the initiative’s progress in two weeks at the next Harris County Commissioner’s Court meeting on September 14.

Governor Greg Abbott is also moving to mitigate the nurse shortage and announced on August 11 a plan to recruit 2,500 nurses from out of state to work in hospitals across Texas.

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