‘This is a crisis’: ICU beds full across Baptist Health

Published: Aug. 16, 2021 at 11:02 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The ongoing COVID-19 surge is pushing Montgomery hospitals to the brink.

“We are experiencing a very significant patient overflow right now. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in my career,” said Ginger Henry, chief operating officer at Baptist Medical Center South.

Henry called the high volume of both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients being treated across the Baptist Health system as, “the most difficult thing I think we have faced yet.”

Henry said every intensive care unit bed across Baptist’s three area hospitals are full.

“We have patients who require ICU-level care that I can’t get into an ICU bed, every day,” Henry said.

“This is a crisis, and this is a crisis that has been going on for now pushing 18 months,” said Baptist South’s chief executive officer, Peter Selman.

Selman said across the three hospitals they are holding upwards of 80 patients in their emergency departments.

“They have to wait in our emergency room departments until a bed becomes available,” Selman said.

As a regional referral center, Selman said Baptist South in particular has been inundated with calls from hospitals all across the region, asking if they can hold patients.

“We at Baptist Medical Center South have received calls from Louisiana, Mississippi, the panhandle of Florida, Georgia, because there are no beds available anywhere in our region,” Selman said.

That is what Selman said is the difference between this delta variant spike in comparison to other spikes hospitals have experienced in the past.

“Now it is primarily the entire country that is experiencing this, and that is what is putting such a strain on our resources,” Selman said.

Baptist leaders said the biggest concern now is having enough staff to meet the growing demand.

“We have hundreds of unfilled positions in Baptist Health. We have dozens of our own team members who are out with COVID in quarantine,” Selman said.

“The nurses are people too, and the nurses have families too, and there’s not enough of them and they’re tired,” Henry said.

Limited staffing is now having an impact on each hospital’s ability to fully care for patients.

“Your health care is not going to be the same right now. It can’t be the same because I can’t give you what I don’t have, and what I don’t have right now is the best health care to give you,” Henry said.

With help from the community, Baptist leaders said the crisis can be averted.

“We are doing everything we can, and what I need everyone to do now is to help us, and that is to get vaccinated and to wear your masks,” Henry said.

“Our path out of this is herd immunity and there’s only two ways to get there. You either get the virus or you get the vaccine, and the vaccine is the preferred route,” Selman said.

Baptist said they are seeing a growing number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients that are under the age of 50.

They said that 96% of their inpatients are unvaccinated, and 99.9 % of their COVID-19-related deaths are among unvaccinated people.

Data from Alabama Department of Public Health shows that as of Monday, 2,631 people are being hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state. That’s a number not seen since January during the height of the pandemic.

The Alabama Hospital Association reported Monday that there are only two ICU beds available across the entire state.

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