Increase in illness, staff shortages add to lack of hospital bed availability

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Flu cases are declining some in Alabama, but now COVID cases are ramping up which means Alabama hospitals are still full.

dr Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association told me that just yesterday, we were back to being over 630 patients with COVID being admitted to hospitals.

Add influenza admissions to that and hospitals statewide are seeing about 750 patients.

“The reality is the health care world that we knew before COVID is not going to be something that we return too, at least in the short term,” Williamson said.

Williamson said we are still dealing with a critical shortage of staff due to COVID both in the hospital and emergency room and that’s impacting hospital bed availability.

“It takes longer to move a patient from the emergency room to their bed on the floor, that means a bed in the emergency room that would otherwise be freed up in maybe 4 hours may take 8 hours or 16 to be freed up,” Williamson said.

Williamson said while hospitals are doing what they can to free up beds and rebuild their workforce, it’s not going to happen overnight.

“I’m probably as worried about the health of our hospitals as I’ve ever been,” Williamson said. “We are now entering into our fourth year of dealing with COVID, I think everyone assumed it would be gone, it isn’t and it’s probably not going to be gone in the foreseeable future.”

Part of the challenge is many hospitals statewide have been losing money throughout the pandemic.

dr Williamson tells me state hospitals are hoping to get more rescue plan money from the state and hopes leaders will help close gaps in health care coverage for patients.

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