"It's All Hands on Deck," Alabama Runs Out of ICU Beds as COVID Cases Surge


BY ZOE CHRISTEN JONES

AUGUST 19, 2021 7:10 PM 

CBS NEWS

Hospitals in Alabama have run out of intensive care unit beds as coronavirus cases spike across the state, forcing workers to make space to treat patients as they wait for open beds. There were 29 more patients than ICU beds available as of Wednesday, an Alabama Department of Public Health spokesperson confirmed to CBS News.

Hospital staffers have been forced to convert hallways, regular patient rooms and emergency spaces into areas where they can treat patients in need of ICU rooms, CBS affiliate WHNT reported. Officials said some patients could be transferred to different hospitals when beds become available. 

"We've never been here before. We are truly now in uncharted territory in terms of our ICU bed capacity," Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told CBS affiliate WTVY.

Last week, Governor Kay Ivey reinstated Alabama's state of emergency, saying the COVID-19 infections are "taxing" the state's hospitals. The order allows for registered nurses to move between facilities and speeds up the process for hospitals to acquire more supplies. The state has a 35% percent vaccination rate, one of the lowest in the country.

Hospitals across southern states have been swamped with COVID patients as the Delta variant fuels the latest surge in cases. In Houston, where COVID rates continue to increase, there are only 44 open ICU beds across the state, KHOU reported. 

Jeff Brannon, CEO of Flowers Hospital in Dothan, Alabama, said medical professionals are working overtime to care for the flood of patients and they've been forced to re-train workers who were previously performing non-clinical jobs. "It's all hands on deck," he told WTVY.

Meanwhile, the Elmore Correctional Facility is experiencing an outbreak behind bars. As of Tuesday, 191 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, all of whom were asymptomatic, according to the state's Department of Corrections. A total of 224 inmates are currently sick with the virus.



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