Nurse shortage, COVID-19 patients surge at Decatur-Morgan Hospital

Decatur

DECATUR, Ala. — Decatur Morgan Hospital, similar to many others across the nation, is experiencing staff shortages and a surge in patients.

This is happening while Morgan County, along with every other county in North Alabama, is listed as high risk for community transmission of COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s dashboard.

“I want to try to make this as simple for people to understand but as we move forward in this crisis, there’s not enough healthcare providers, there’s not enough beds, there’s not enough physicians for where we’re headed with this,” said Decatur Morgan Hospital President Kelli Powers. “At what point is there decisions made between who gets to live and who dies?”

During the Morgan County and Decatur COVID-19 briefing Monday, Powers said she’s struggled with sharing the harsh reality we’re headed toward with the public.

Over the past week, Morgan County had 760 new COVID-19 cases, with a 7-day percentage positive rate of 21.8%. Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling said there was a daily average of 107 people diagnosed with the virus, added the triple-digit case increases are concerning.

Morgan County reached 1/3 residents vaccinated with 40,900 residents who have completed the COVID-19 vaccine series.

There are 196 inpatients between all Decatur-Morgan campuses, according to Powers.

Her big message Monday surrounded the desperation of needing more people to get vaccinated.

“If you want to live, you need to that vaccine because we are having people that die everyday begging for the vaccine, begging to live, leaving children behind, leaving spouses behind,” said Powers. “There’s no reason they should have died. We’re at the point now where we’re overwhelmed, we’re not at the point yet where we pick who lives and who dies but I believe we’re not too far away from that as a state.”

As of Monday, August 30, Decatur Morgan’s main campus had 57 inpatients with COVID-19 while on Friday, they were at 44. Only 9% of those inpatients are vaccinated.

There are eight people in the ICU, seven of those are on ventilators and none of them are vaccinated.

The nurses and physicians are exhausted, Powers said. The hospital is down 70 nurses as of Monday, leaving those remaining to be overworked. Many nurses are working overtime, around 60 hours a week.

While they continue working to fill the open positions, they are also looking for volunteers to take some of the clerical burden off the staff.

“So they wouldn’t be put in a position to deal with any COVID patients and they could be socially distanced, but just people to help call people back, schedule, things like that,” said Powers, describing the work the volunteers would do.

Powers says if they are able to get help with administrative work, the hospital could transition more staff to work with the overabundance of inpatients.

Powers said there are not enough healthcare providers or beds to handle the demand the hospital is seeing.

Due to the demand for testing, Decatur-Morgan has expanded its Mobile Medical Unit COVID-19 testing Monday-Friday. There are 150-170 people being tested at this location every day.

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