Alabama hospitals still fighting low staffing amid an early flu and RSV season

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 8:36 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - State leaders tell WBRC that many Alabama hospitals are still understaffed and struggling. Now, many are working through an early flu and RSV season.

There are more than 200 people hospitalized with the flu across the state as of November 23, but state leaders worry that it’s bound to grow after the holidays while hospital staffing is still low.

“Staffing remains a major challenge for us,” Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association said. “We certainly are not back where we were before Covid in terms of staffing. Some hospitals still have areas of their hospital that are closed because they simply don’t have enough staff.”

Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson said low staffing is causing long wait times in ERs when they’re full of flu and RSV patients right now.

“It’s more concerning perhaps than usual because it’s occurring at a time that hospitalizations are likely to be increasing because of respiratory illnesses and transmissions during this season of the year,” Williamson said. “Anytime you have an event that brings large numbers of people together and you have multiple viruses being transmitted in the community, you are likely to see an increase in virus transmission. Unfortunately, you’re likely going to see some temporal increases in hospitalizations.”

Williamson said that spike will likely strain hospitals if it worsens.

“Even though we don’t have high numbers of Covid, and we don’t have high numbers of influenza, we have real challenges with staffing,” he said. “Anything that increases the burden on hospitals is going to make the situation extremely worse.”

The Alabama Hospital Association conducted a survey to see how much hospitals spent during Covid on bringing in new staffing and keeping employees. Williamson said hospitals reported more than 800 million dollars of un-reimbursed staffing expenses.

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