Huntsville Hospital facing supply challenges for testing, protection equipment

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Huntsville-area officials held their regular COVID-19 briefing Monday and discussion about access to protective equipment for hospital workers and virus testing dominated the discussion.

“You’re ready for everything, but you just don’t know how much to be ready for. That’s the big question we’re looking at, said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers echoed Battle, saying the hospital has an adequate amount of supplies like person protection equipment — today.

“What we’re worried about is a week, 10 days from now, if we have a huge influx of patients, and the concern that the supply chain, which is feeding us supplies today, somehow gets cut off, because everybody in the country has a huge spike,” Spillers said.

Spikes already taking place in larger states have limited the hospital’s ability to do its own testing, Spillers said.

“We have one of the largest hospital-based labs in the country here and are capable of doing COVID-19 testing here if we had the processing material from the vendors that supply us,” he said. “And nationally those materials have been allocated elsewhere in the country to hot spots.”

U.S. hospitals aren’t designed for this, Spillers said.

“Our healthcare system is not built to address the magnitude of what this could be,” he said. “Whether it be supplies, personnel, hospital beds, respirators, etc. etc. And, I’m not sure the country could afford to just have all this stuff waiting around for the next pandemic. I mean, it’s an enormous amount of resources.”

Spillers did offer an encouraging note, based on the hospital’s recent test findings.

“The numbers that we’re testing vs. the numbers that are coming back positive are still very small,” Spillers said. “And the ones that are coming back positive generally go home and self-quarantine, we’re not finding many patients that are so sick on an outpatient basis that they`re tested and admitted.”

But there’s less good news statewide. State Health Officer Scott Harris said Monday between 6 and 7 percent of the patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have been hospitalized, with some patients on ventilators and intensive care units.

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