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Alabama has ‘negative’ ICU beds available

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 5:03 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As of Tuesday, Alabama was out of intensive care unit beds, but the number of inpatients needing ICU treatment continues to increase.

“We’ve never been here before. We are in truly now in uncharted territory in terms of our ICU bed capacity,” said Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson.

He says ICU capacity levels have been reached across the state with at least 11 additional patients now in need of ICU treatment. Some are being treated on gurneys in hallways or in emergency rooms, Williams stated.

“There were 1,568 patients today who need ICU beds, and there are only 1,557 designated ICU beds in the state today,” Williamson said.In the Montgomery area, we have eight more patients who are getting ICU care than we have designated ICU beds here.”

In other parts of the state some facilities have “over 30 patients in hospitals needing ICU care who are not in a designated ICU bed.”

Williamson said this doesn’t mean those patients aren’t getting ICU-level care. “They are, but to do that, they are taking up other parts of the hospital that would not normally be made into an ICU unit.”

Alabama’s hospitalization rate swelled to 2,723 on Tuesday, up 92 from the previous day. More than 40 of those are pediatric cases.

Williamson said data shows that only 12% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 are fully vaccinated, and added “this could have been prevented had we gotten vaccination numbers to higher levels.”

And Williamson warned the state’s 23% positive test rate, among the highest in the nation, means Alabama has not yet reached its pandemic surge peak. More than 4,000 more cases were confirmed for the day, and many more people will ultimately need advanced medical treatment.

This is a problem for everyone, he explained, not just those with COVID-19 but those suffering from strokes, heart attacks or even crashes.

“Individuals who end up in the hospital will be taken care of, let me be very clear on that,” Williamson said, but he added that people may be managed for extended periods of time in the ER, or even transferred to other facilities for care.

There is one positive to note. The state’s ventilator capacity is not currently an issue, Williamson said.

The question now is whether Alabama can expand its bed capacity to meet the need, but Williamson said he would not be surprised if the state doesn’t get federal assistance in the form of staffing, a major concern, or infusion sites that could help keep people from needing hospitalization to begin with.

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