Health official warns of new COVID-19 surge and the possibility of overwhelming system

Updated: Jul. 13, 2020 at 9:53 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - More than 7,000 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state, and as of Monday night, more than 1,300 COVID-19 patients remained hospitalized.

We’re checking in with two of the state’s largest healthcare systems for an update on their current intensive care bed usage.

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state, concerns amplified about local hospitals being overwhelmed.

According to Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Health, state data shows about 30% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients might need ICU care; 12%- 13% may need a ventilator.

“Our healthcare systems are already having to take measures to be able to take care of COVID-19 patients and they have other demands for hospitalizations. We have to remember, there are other illnesses besides COVID-19. There are other reasons people will need an ICU bed,” said Dr. Landers.

Brookwood Medical Center sent WBRC a statement: “As one of the largest healthcare systems in Central Alabama, the number of patients in the ICU’s across our system is manageable, and our hospitals have plans in place to continue providing care safely. Our hospitals are serving the community and providing needed care, including elective surgeries. We have the capacity, appropriate supplies, and the ability to operationalize additional beds within the hospitals to increase our capacity if needed. We encourage our community not to delay care for new or chronic conditions requiring medical attention, which can lead to life-threatening illnesses, and we have taken the appropriate steps and implemented protocols to continue to provide safe care. It is important to continue to adhere to safe personal practices, masking, social distancing, and frequent hand washing.”

UAB, the state’s only designated Level 1 Adult Trauma Center said they routinely get transfer patients from hospitals across the state who need emergency/ intensive care. Those transfers in addition to local need do stress the world-renowned institution.

A UAB representative sent WBRC this statement:

“The rise in COVID hospitalizations stretches the resources we have and impacts the care we can provide to all patients. As the state of Alabama’s only designated Level I Adult Trauma Center, our emergency department routinely receives transfers from other emergency departments around the county and the state for further tests or stabilization prior to rooms becoming available in the hospital. Following triage, patients are moved from the ED to the appropriate nursing unit in the shortest time possible.”

It’s important to note that this is an issue impacting nearly all hospitals in our country at the moment. The stress on UAB Hospital and all of the hospitals in the state in coping with the pandemic is the reason UAB continues to urge the community to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, wash hands and avoid large gatherings.

The rep. also said a hospital’s ICU census is a fluid situation that’s why one minute the unit may have low availability of beds and the next minute the unit may have several beds available.

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