Huntsville Hospital grapples with surge of COVID-19 cases

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state are rising at an alarming level with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announcing earlier this week, about 95% of the state’s intensive care unit beds are filled.

Huntsville Hospital President and Chief Operating Officer Tracy Doughty says an influx of COVID-19 patients continues to add a strain to the already busy unit filled with patients fighting other illnesses.

“Are our ICU beds full? Yes, they’re full,” said Doughty.

Doughty says even before the pandemic, ICU bed space could get tight.

Earlier this week, the hospital canceled inpatient elective surgeries to open up more room to house new ICU patients.

“We deal with a little bit of this every year, but without stopping elective surgeries to free up beds to move people to, it wouldn’t be plausible,” Doughty stated.

As of Friday, the Huntsville Hospital Health System had 291 inpatients, with more than 90 COVID-19 patients in the ICU. 36 of those patients are in Madison County.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we’re moving patients around to make more ICU beds, but the staff and leadership team does a great job with our physicians and deciding which patients can move here or there,” said Doughty. “We’ve got nurses who are, again, working extra in our ICUs to make sure there’s enough staff to take care of those patients.”

“There’s a shortage around the country as we move into this pandemic and we feel those effects here in Alabama and in Madison County as well,” Doughty continued.

Friday, Governor Kay Ivey declared a limited state of emergency in response to overwhelmed state hospitals.

Doughty said he doesn’t know exactly how many nurses they need to be fully staffed across all units, but says any qualified candidate would be welcomed with open arms.

“If 100 qualified nurses showed up today looking for work, we would hire them,” said Doughty.

Doughty says anyone who does not think this latest wave of COVID-19 cases is serious just needs to take a look at the numbers the hospital publishes online five days per week – and see what’s in their hometown.

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