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Only seven percent of ICU beds in Alabama remain unfilled

Omicron surge exacerbating the strain on the medical community
Less than 10 percent of the beds are currently available.
Less than 10 percent of the beds are currently available.(WBRC)
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 5:32 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The state of Alabama is running out of ICU beds. As of Tuesday, only 7.3% of ICU beds remained available. The latest surge of COVID-19 is further straining an already understaffed, and now thoroughly infected health care workforce.

Right now, there are only 111 ICU beds available in the state. Birmingham is sitting at 9% ICU Bed availability, with 44 ICU beds open. That isn’t great, but there are parts of the state that are in negative ICU territory. East Central Alabama for example, which includes communities like Montgomery and Opelika, has 14 more patients than beds. The Mobile region has 5 more patients than designated ICU beds.

“Now what has happened is this most recent surge has occurred on top of what was already a relatively tight situation,” said Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson. “Yesterday had 2,566 individuals with COVID in the hospital, 496 were in the ICU compared to December 18 we had 129 people in the ICU so we have seen an explosion of COVID.”

Even with those numbers spiking, Dr. Williamson believes the real problem is not bed availability, it is staff availability.

“The main problem I hear from conversations with hospital administrators over the last five days has been staffing and it is not the same situation we saw in August and September where we had an outflow of staff to traveling groups. This is a problem with staff becoming infected and therefor being unavailable,” said Dr. Williamson.

He stresses that the same level of care will be very difficult to give with so many workers out with COVID-19.

“While we may have been able to handle 2,800 COVID patients in the hospital in September, we may have been able to handle 800 COVID patients in the ICU in September our staffing and the fall out of infection among our own employees is going to make that same level of care very difficult.”

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