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Odessa hospitals bringing in portable morgue as COVID-19 deaths rise

Published: Nov. 17, 2020 at 1:46 PM CST
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) -

Both Odessa hospitals are filling with COVID-19 patients, which means so is the morgue.

The Ector County Health Department has requested a portable morgue be brought in.

The hospitals will setup that portable morgue at the Ector County Coliseum.

Odessa Regional Medical Center’s chief medical officer says this is a grim turning point in Odessa’s fight against COVID-19.

“For us to be in a position where we’re having to worry about this should be alarming to the community,” Dr. Rohith Saravanan said.

There’s very little space to begin with.

Medical Center Hospital only has room for six bodies and Odessa Regional Medical Center doesn’t even have a morgue.

This year, the county has examined about 550 people who all died from various causes.

Storage has become a problem now because the added coronavirus deaths have pushed the morgue’s capacity to its limits.

“Because there is not enough space to hold them until they get them to the medical examiner to do what they need to do,” Odessa’s Mayor David Turner said.

The portable morgue may not even be the only emergency facility setup because of the coronavirus.

“There was a talk of setting up tents in our helipad right over here at the airport so that we can share between here and Midland,” Saravanan said. “Those discussions are ongoing.”

So far 130 patients have died in Odessa because of complications caused by COVID-19.

At this point, we don’t know when that portable morgue will be set up.

The Ector County Health Department released the following statement on its issues with storage as the number of deaths from COVID-19 rise:

The Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office is required to investigate all deaths not attended by a physician. The Medical Examiner’s Office has been struggling with limited space to store deceased persons for years as the Medical Center Hospital Morgue only has room for six. The Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office has investigated approximately 550 deaths (homicide, suicide, overdose, accidents, and motor vehicle accidents, and natural causes) in Ector County since January 1, 2020. These types of events coupled with the increase in hospital deaths exhaust our storage capacity. Our population has increased over the years therefore managing space for a deceased person continues to be a struggle. The Ector County Medical Examiner’s Office requested Emergency Management to request a temporary holding facility from the State to temporary hold deceased persons until they are released for burial or autopsy. Ector County has also coordinated with Medical Center Hospital and Odessa Regional Hospital to accommodate any storage needs they may have as well.

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