North Alabama hospital leaders worry about capacity as one-third of patients have coronavirus

About a third of inpatients in North Alabama hospitals are coronavirus patients, according to officials.

Posted: Nov 24, 2020 6:29 PM
Updated: Nov 24, 2020 7:54 PM

The continuing rise in coronavirus cases is putting a strain on staff and facilities, hospital leaders in Madison County said on Tuesday.

They're evaluating canceling some surgeries due to the spike in cases as hospitals get closer and closer to reaching maximum capacity. Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Hospital CEOs both said they're still doing out-patient surgeries, but evaluating inpatient elective surgeries at different hospital across North Alabama because with coronavirus inpatients and sick staff, it's getting harder to offer those procedures.

"While we can stretch our physical capacity, the thing we cannot stretch is our staffing capacity. COVID is exposing our workforce, health care and other essential personnel, at home and in their social gatherings," said Pam Hudson, Crestwood Hospital CEO.

"In Decatur, Morgan for example, about a third of the patients they have in the hospital are COVID patients. They are basically full at 150 patients and that's where they are today, total. Helen Keller is also about a third of their patients are COVID patients, the same with Marshall. Athens is down a little bit this week. Knock on wood this week, their numbers are actually down. Huntsville Main, we've got about 100 in that hospital. There's about 600-plus other types of patients there, many of them very sick, critically ill. That's where that care takes place in North Alabama. We have limited inpatient elective surgeries because the hospital beds are basically full. Women's and Children's is also basically full with many other things other than COVID. About a third of the beds in Madison are currently COVID patients. You can see that theme come up over and over again. They're having to limit, potentially," said David Spillers, Huntsville Hospital CEO.

"If you see a hospital stop doing some elective or some non-emergent type cases, it is because of the concern that we might have to make a decision that we might have to provide somebody with less of the care that we want to provide," said Hudson.

"Little concerned about the projections, and I hate to mention the projections 'cause they haven't been perfect, but the indicators have been pretty close. We will see more inpatients before we actually start coming back down again. Could be as many as 50% more than we're seeing today. Please be careful. Do your best to try to stay safe and help us get through this. We want to be there to help you when you need us. We don't want to be overwhelmed. We're getting close to being overwhelmed if the numbers continue to rise like they are," Spillers said.

Dr. Karen Landers, Madison County Public Health Officer, also said that the hospitals throughout Alabama have a surge plan and prepare for these types of situations to make sure every patient is getting the highest quality of care despite the large volume of patients.

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