Hospitals prepare for worst-case scenario as COVID cases surge

Hospitals expecting COVID surge

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to climb, so do the number of hospitalizations.

And with the holidays quickly approaching, hospital leaders are anticipating a surge, and are taking steps right now to deal with it.

President of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Don Williamson, said the real challenge for hospitals really isn’t beds…it’s staff. He said area hospitals were very efficient in July when hospitalizations for COVID-19 topped 1,600. Non-COVID areas were converted into COVID areas, while even some non-patient care areas were transformed to accommodate patients.

Dr. Williamson said keeping patients on hospital campuses, is better than trying to relocate them to other sites. That’s because creating alternate care sites means finding more staff, which is hard to do right now, and those facilities won’t necessarily have resources found inside hospitals.

“This is a nationwide and even worldwide pandemic and there just really isn’t a place to go to get spare staff to help you. So, managing with what you have, using traveling nurses, using staffing services all of those to augment staff are the best way forward right now,” Dr. Williamson explained.

He added that the Alabama Hospital Association has looked at alternate care sites in preparation for the worst-case scenario, scouting out hotels in Birmingham, and civic centers in other areas.

He said those facilities could be used, although it’s not clear what the worst-case scenario is.

He said hospitalizations are at 1,315 today, and we still haven’t gotten through Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and other holiday gatherings.

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