The board of Nacogdoches Memorial hospital met in emergency session Thursday to renew the contract of its cardiac laboratory director and the expiring privileges of several physicians before canceling meetings for the foreseeable future over concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Cath lab director Dr. Vijaya Pokala’s contract expires April 20, before the board might meet again, and the medical provider privileges expire soon as well.

“As you can all well imagine, we need as many health care providers as possible,” board president Dr. Ryan Head said.

The board unanimously agreed to cancel its March 24 board meeting — though members Farrah Bentley and Fred Groover cast their votes by phone — in order to meet federal guidelines limiting gatherings to fewer than 10 people.

Since the board approved the meeting date last month, members had to meet in open session to cancel it in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act, Head said.

Hospital officials considered having a virtual meeting, but “the infrastructure as far as requiring those things for the open meetings act just wasn’t feasible,” Head said.

Interim CEO Gary Stokes said Memorial Hospital is working closely with Nacogdoches Medical Center to monitor the spread of the virus. As of Thursday afternoon, no patients in Nacogdoches County have tested positive for coronavirus.

“We’re trying to do some daily bulletins and putting it on our website. We’re trying to get information out particularly about testing and assessments because it’s so confusing,” Stokes said.

Testing has been in short supply across the country since one of the prime components for the coronavirus tests comes from China, where the virus has ravaged the population and the economy.

Last week, County Health Officer Dr. Bill Hairston told commissioners that only 25 test were available per day across the region. As of Thursday, the region had 40 tests per day available, Memorial Hospital officials said.

State and federal officials have promised a quick rollout of tests for the virus, though the implementation has lagged so far. Texas had conducted 2,355 tests as of Thursday afternoon. Of those, 143 were positive, including a person in Rusk County. Officials there declared a public health emergency this week in order to be in better position to receive state aid.

Three Texans so far have died of the virus.

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