HUNTSVILLE, Ala – The Huntsville Hospital Health System is currently treating 219 patients with COVID-19; 58 in the ICU and 36 on ventilators. As cases continue to rise, hospital officials say they are also experiencing an increase in staffing concerns.
Employees testing positive for COVID-19 or taking care of family members with the virus has been a major source for staffing problems at the health system, but something that is taking place next month is creating an additional challenge for many people who work for HHHS.
“The situation is pretty difficult right now,” said David Spillers, Huntsville Hospital CEO.
Thousands of children in North Alabama are preparing to start the fall semester online. Spillers worries about what this means for hospital staff.
“We’re getting a lot of phone calls into HR saying, ‘What am I going to do? My choice is stay home and educate my child or come to work, and I’ve got to do both,'” Spillers said. “So we’re trying to work through that.”
This comes at a time when the hospital is extremely busy. The health system is breaking its own records at the main campus.
“We had 84 neonatal intensive care babies at one time last week. That’s the most we’ve ever had at one time.” he said.
Babies in the NICU aren’t the only numbers breaking records. The system experienced a jump in patients on ventilators system-wide.
“At one time last week our system had 104 patients on ventilators. That’s the most we’ve ever had at one time, but only about 25 percent of those had COVID,” Spillers stated.
To top it off, the health system was already experiencing staffing issues related to the pandemic.
“Today we’re probably down about 200 employees with COVID or a loved one with COVID so that in itself is difficult. You add another 200 to that and things start getting very difficult to staff some of the areas, particularly when you’re full,” he pointed out.
Spillers says the hospital is trying to find ways to help employees who will have to juggle work with having kids at home participating in online learning.
“We will look at expanding our daycare to see if that helps so we can get some employees that currently could come back to work if they had daycare for their little ones,” Spillers said.
Spillers says the health system has deferred most of their elective surgeries at this time.
Huntsville Hospital isn’t the only facility that’s busy in our region. Spillers said that hospitals in South Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi called to ask to transfer COVID-19 patients. Spillers told them they would not be able to accept those patients at this time.