Helen Keller Hospital president provides update on COVID-19 numbers and vaccine

Coronavirus

SHEFFIELD, Ala. — The number of COVID-19 patients at Helen Keller Hospital has decreased since earlier this week, but hospital president Kyle Buchanan said it’s not a reason to celebrate.

On Tuesday, Buchanan told News 19 there were 35 COVID-19 patients currently admitted to the hospital. As of Friday, he said that number has dropped to 28, although he said that shouldn’t be encouraging news.

“Over the past week we’ve seen several transfers and, very transparently, we’ve seen, just like every hospital, we’ve seen some deaths over the past several days,” Buchanan said.

In regard to patient transfers, Buchanan said some COVID-19 patients require services that aren’t available at Helen Keller.

“As a system we do partner with large academic medical centers across the southeast as well for services that we don’t even have in north Alabama, and many of those transfers need services in that category so we work with them to get that done,” he said.

Buchanan said the hospital is seeing near-record numbers and those working on the frontlines are affected as well.

“Currently, today, we have staff of about 22 who are out currently with COVID and another 15 who are monitoring their symptoms,” he said.

Progress towards prevention is underway. Buchanan said the hospital is planning its vaccine distribution over the next 60 to 90 days.

Buchanan emphasized the importance of partnerships with local nursing homes, school systems, and other medical centers in managing the virus beyond the hospital’s walls.

“We’re trying to do that more and more every day and it seems like every week a new challenge arises and calls for a new partnership and we’re trying to be assertive in how we address that,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan added that the pandemic has impacted the hospital during a nurse shortage and as a result, Helen Keller has increased its number of open positions. He said openings for nurses, respiratory therapists, and other critical care staff will be critical in the next 90 days.