‘A tidal wave of sick patients’: UAB treating record number of COVID-19 patients

Updated: Dec. 7, 2020 at 2:28 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Doctors, nurses and staff at UAB Hospital are treating a record number of patients with COVID-19.

As of 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 7, UAB Hospital is caring for 130 inpatients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

UAB treated 129 patients Saturday, Dec. 5 and 129 patients again on Sunday, Dec. 6.

Dr. Sarah Nafziger, co-chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Emergency Management Committee and professor of medicine in the school’s Department of Emergency Medicine said healthcare workers are describing a tidal wave of sick COVID-19 patients who need care.

Nafziger said UAB is seeing people who are very ill with COVID-19 symptoms.

She said healthcare providers usually see an increase in positive cases two weeks after a holiday, and then a bump in hospitalizations two weeks after that.

Nafziger was asked about what happens if hospitalizations increase beyond 127. She said there are only so many resources to go around so the hospital is working to maximize those resources and move things around to help COVID patients and other patients in need.

Nafziger said she is concerned about meeting needs for trauma patients, stroke and heart patients, but she said UAB will do all it can to help any patient in need.

Nafziger was also asked about employees and how they handle COVID-19 exposure. She said healthcare workers with exposures are allowed to continue to work based on ADPH guidelines. She said the vast majority of healthcare workers who become COVID-19 positive are getting it from home and not work.

Nafziger said cases within the UAB system are increasing and staffing is stretched in some areas. She said people are picking up extra shifts, and because of the extra work and hard work they are emotionally tired and drained. They also say they aren’t going to quit and they’ll keep going in the fight against COVID-19.

Nafziger said the good news when it comes to COVID-19 is the vaccine.

Alabama will be ready next week to accept the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, whenever they are ready to be shipped. Alabama Public Health Officer Scott Harris says the state’s first shipment will only be about 40,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Healthcare workers and other first responders are right now at the top of the list to get the vaccine first. But obviously, 40,000 doses will not be enough for everybody.

UAB is one of eight hospitals selected to receive those first vaccines. Their first week shipment will include about 10,000 vaccines and it may ship around December 10 or 11.

The primary targets for vaccines are hospital and ambulatory-based workers.

There are more than 200,000 healthcare workers in Alabama.

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