Huntsville Hospital taking steps to address crowded ER, similar issues nationwide


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Emergency rooms across the U.S. are battling crowded conditions and heavy demand.

That may sound familiar, but the reports in recent weeks suggest the problem is not related to COVID-19. And Huntsville Hospital has not been immune from that crowding, according to Tracy Doughty, Huntsville Hospital president, and chief operating officer.

“It’s not unusual for us to be busy,” Doughty told News 19 Friday. “But it’s unusual for us to be as busy as we have been in the past couple of weeks.”

Doughty said a number of factors have combined to lead to overcrowding. He said in some cases it can be related to patients waiting a bit too long to seek care. He said other patients are checking in with doctors before the holidays. Huntsville and Madison County continue to grow, which also increases demand.

Doughty said Huntsville Hospital has emergency plans for most eventualities and Friday they moved forward with their plans to free up beds where possible. And, they’re facing a weekend before a holiday.

“All that means for our staff is to be on heightened alert to expedite any delays we have in moving patients,” he said. “One might be the physician hadn’t rounded. So we’ll call a physician and make sure he stops by instead of 2 o’clock, 1 o’clock — 9 o’clock in the morning. If a person is going to an SNF (skilled nursing facility) or a long-term care facility, and the only thing they’re waiting on is a piece of lab work, we talk to the lab and get that done quicker.”

“So we just expedite the things we need to, breaking down barriers for patient movement, to resolve our issues there quickly. That’s all the emergency operations plan is, it’s heightened awareness for everybody.”

Doughty said they are always trying to plan ahead and stressed while the emergency has been crowded, patients who need care at Huntsville Hospital will be taken care of.

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