Huntsville Hospital president addresses healthcare system struggles

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Alabama hospitals continue to be overrun. Healthcare officials all across the state are warning there’s not enough staff or ICU beds for the amount of patients being admitted.

“Our staff is tired,” says Tracy Doughty, Huntsville Hospital President and Chief Operations Officer. “There’s not enough nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, techs, radiology staff to go around.”

Doughty is echoing a similar message to other healthcare officials across the state: too many patients, too little staff.

“We’ve got 212 patients in the hospital with COVID-19 in Madison County,” said Doughty. “We got 50 of those in the ICU and 29 on mechanical ventilation.” He went on to say a week ago, there were 155 patients in the hospital and a month ago, there were 70.

In just one month, the number of patients more than doubled, with a 202% increase.

“So there’s no ICU beds upstairs, so they stay in the ER for an extended period of time which puts stress on the ER staff,” said Doughty.

While the number of patients being admitted into the hospital continues to rise, the room to hold them is becoming slim. News 19 asked what would happen if the hospital ran out of room.

“I hope we don’t run out of room,” Doughty answered. “We’ll continue to put patients where we can… but it’s going to take the community stepping up and taking the vaccine to avoid something like that.”

The next question from News 19: “Do you think we’re headed in that direction, where hospitals are going to have to start basically picking and choosing who gets priority in getting healthcare?”

Doughty’s response: “Some of the models say we’re getting close to getting peaked out. If that’s the case, then I think we’re okay. The highest number we got to early in the pandemic is 270 patients. We’re at 212 now… Do I think we’re headed there? Hard to say. I would hate to predict if we’re headed there or not.”

The big message to the community from Doughty is for people to start taking COVID-19 seriously, before the hospitals are overrun. He is encouraging vaccines, masks, and social distancing to slow the spread.

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