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Lack of ICU beds forcing hospitals to adjust

“We are approaching a situation where it’s going to becoming increasingly difficult to impossible for patients to get timely access to ICU beds,”
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 7:29 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - ICU beds are completely full across the state as COVID case numbers continue to rapidly increase. However, health officials are saying the lack of ICU beds isn’t the problem, it’s hospital staffing for those beds that is causing the greatest concern.

“The reality is, hospitals have been very creative. They have found ways to take care of more patients who need ICUs than they have ICU beds,” said President of the Alabama Hospital Association Don Williamson.

Williamson says nearly half of ICU beds are filled with COVID patients.

“We are approaching a situation where it’s going to become increasingly difficult to impossible for patients to get timely access to ICU beds,” said Williamson.

Williamson says the real problem is having enough staff to take care of patients, and he suspects federal staffing assistance in the near future.

“You can’t magically create staff, that’s the problem,” said Williamson.

He says because of this, hospitals across the state have been having to utilize travel nurses.

“The challenge is the reimbursement to pay those staff has not gone up so this is going to create a financial challenge on the other side of the pandemic,” said Williamson.

Williamson says he does not think we’ve reached a peak number of COVID-19 cases, and he believes we may surpass previous record numbers.

“It is absolutely unbelievable the rate at which the delta variant is being transmitted,” said Williamson.

Williamson says the most important thing we can do short-term, is help drive those hospital numbers down.

“The next two to four weeks are going to, you know, define how this looks and I think that’s gonna be determined by what we’re able to do to slow down admissions,” said Williamson.

Williamson says in helping hospitals decrease their numbers, masking is extremely important and monoclonal antibodies make a huge impact on keeping patients out of the hospital.

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