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Huntsville Hospital explains capacity contingency plans with rising coronavirus numbers

The hospital says with the growing capacity, it's monitoring if it has to move patients around.

Posted: Jan 11, 2021 6:17 PM
Updated: Jan 11, 2021 8:18 PM

WAAY 31 worked to learn more about how the Huntsville Hospital system is caring for the high number of COVID-19 patients.

Last week, UAB announced it's housing some cancer patients in nearby hotels because of a lack of space inside. In Huntsville on Monday, Huntsville Hospital announced it has 200 COVID-19 positive patients and 43 people admitted under investigation.

Huntsville Hospital said it relies on its whole system of hospitals throughout North Alabama to make sure there is room for anyone who needs treatment inside, and hotels are not something they're looking at right now.

The hospital system said it can transfer patients depending on their care needs to other hospitals in the system if necessary. They said they have also limited elective surgeries to help make sure they have room inside for anyone who is sick. The hospital also said it works with long-term care facilities to take some patients who need care but don't need to be in the hospital setting to free up space.

Tracy Doughty, the Senior Vice President of Operations, explained housing people outside the hospital makes treating patients harder on doctors.

"Whether it's telephones or call lights, doctors know exactly where patients are, those types of things. What you run into if you move them off campus, then they're are not having drugs readily available, so our goals are to stay inside the four walls of the hospital," he said.

Doughty said with the number of COVID-19 patients high right now, they believe plans they have in place will allow them to keep everyone inside one of the systems' hospitals, because it's the best way to provide patient care.

UAB Hospital on Friday said it had 207 coronavirus patients and 88 people who were initially hospitalized because of COVID-19, but no longer are contagious. However, they were not well enough to go home.

The hospital said it's working to determine how many patients they have admitted for COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but not well enough to go home.

The hospital said there are a variety of reasons doctors can't discharge people who are no longer infectious but too sick. Doughty said doctors work to determine an appropriate place for those people to be placed in the hospital.

"We have several dedicated COVID areas and some areas are hybrid-areas where there are COVID patients and non-COVID patients, not in the same room, but on the same unit, so it's been a pretty seamless process in our planning phase," he said.

Doughty said once patients are no longer infectious, they are taken off the hospital's count of COVID-19 patients, meaning Monday's 200 COVID-19 patients wouldn't include anyone who was initially hospitalized for the virus but is no longer contagious.

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