Alabama ICU’s struggle with burden of growing caseloads

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state, it is becoming increasingly difficult for many hospitals to properly staff all of their ICU beds.

The Alabama Hospital Association says the state currently has over 1600 patients in ICU’s, and only around 1500 staffed ICU beds to place them in.

Across the Huntsville Hospital System, 97 patients were in the ICU as of Wednesday. One month ago, that number sat at 43 ICU patients.

Meanwhile, UAB Hospital says it’s been shifting staff from outside departments to the ICU to take some of the pressure off of ICU nurses. UAB Hospital has also been recruiting additional workers from the community, ranging from retired nurses, to others who are completely new to healthcare, and training them as support staff, to help with everything from administrative tasks to jobs like running lab samples from place to place.

A major contributor to ICU bed shortages at the moment are COVID-19 patients who are staying in the ICU for far longer than patients did during the previous surge.

One ICU nurse, Anderson Lopez Castillo, was asked if his patients have been expressing regrets.

“Most of the time patients will voice concerns and you know, regrets early on in their stay, and then by the time I’m seeing them they are no longer able to really voice anything because now they have a tube down their throat or they have a tracheostomy or they’re sedated, they’re paralyzed because if they’re even awake for more than a few minutes, they’re coughing so much that they are unable to breath,” stated Castillo

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