UAB officals warn long-term impact of COVID could impact elective procedures

Health care worker pushes an unidentified patient into a facility.
Health care worker pushes an unidentified patient into a facility.(Source: WVUE)
Updated: Jun. 20, 2020 at 10:26 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A plea and a warning from UAB doctors; hospital officials raising are concerns about rising COVID-19 hospitalizations potentially impacting what services can and can’t be done.

When we first started dealing with COVID, Governor Kay Ivey suspended elective procedures to preserve PPE and hospital space. Elective procedures are back on -- but health officials warn if cases keep going up - they may have to stop again.

COVID hospitalization rates hit the highest mark to date this week. 130 patients received care at acute hospitals across Jefferson County including UAB.

“Typically hovered around 40 - 50 for awhile. That’s just be gradually creeping up on a daily basis, so the trend now is that we’re up in the high 60′s,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, UAB.

On Friday, UAB officials reported hospitalizations were at 60.

The relief now is there’s space to care for them and patients with other medical emergencies.

“We have about 10 - 24 percent availability for any type of bed. We’re not in the red yet,” said Julie Cobb, Emergency Preparedness Division.

But UAB officials are giving a cautionary warning about the future.

“Our big concern is if these cases continue to trend up, we’ll have to devote more resources and beds to taking care of patients with COVID and if that happens we’re not going to have beds to do other things and services that patients may need,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, UAB.

Things people may need - like surgery to check a heart catheter or colonoscopy to check for cancer. County health leaders say there has not been formal discussion about ending elective procedures soon - and that’s a last resort effort to save space - but it is something that has to stay on their radar.

“You have to have those plans in place and you can’t see the numbers increasing as they are and not make plans at this point,” said Cobb, Emergency Preparedness Division.

Hospital officials say they would look at expanding wings in hospitals or doing early discharges to create more space before they postpone elective procedures again. But UAB officials say they want to get this information out now - so it doesn’t get to that point.

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