Alabama hospitals continue to struggle with ICU bed shortage

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala – Hospitals across Alabama are continuing to face a crippling flow of Covid-19 cases, filling intensive care units.

The number of patients who are severely ill from the virus still outnumbers the number of staffed ICU beds available statewide. Right now the Alabama Hospital Association says half of all ICU beds statewide are taken up by COVID-19 patients, which doctors say offers less room, or simply no room at all, for patients requiring critical care for a variety of other serious conditions.

“We’re still underwater,” said Dr. Don Williamson, President of the Alabama Medical Association.

Dr. Williamson, says hospitalizations have declined some of late, but not enough to provide every patient needing an ICU bed, the proper care. Over 1500 people are now in an ICU statewide.

“We have ventilating patients in the ER because they don’t have the space upstairs. We have ventilating patients in hallways,” said Dr. Williamson.

This month, a 73-year-old man from Cullman suffered a heart attack and was turned away from more than 40 hospitals, because their ICUs were all full. Ray Martin Demonia was eventually transferred to the nearest bed, more than 200 miles away in Meridian, MS, where he died.

“We still don’t have the ability to move patients routinely between hospitals and transfer not just COVID patients, but transfer patients who need care for heart attacks, stroke, trauma, and any of the other things that we would routinely see patients transferred for,” said Dr. Williamson.

And medical experts say they are still worried about the potential for the virus to mutate further, into a variant more resistant to the vaccines currently available.

“This is probably not the last spike and that’s a really depressing thought, but we should be prepared for another spike at some point, it’s probably not with Delta but with some other variant, maybe one we don’t even know about yet,” said Dr. Williamson.

Williamson says one of the best ways Alabamians can prevent the Delta variant from mutating into a far more lethal variant of COVID-19 is by getting the vaccine.

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