Rise in COVID 19 Patients Threatening Elective Medical Procedures

Hospital capacity and elective surgeries

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s another record day today, with 1,827 people in hospitals across Alabama with COVID 19.

The increasing patient load puts elective surgeries, like heart, cancer or hip surgeries, at risk. That elective care could be delayed for a week or two. Huntsville Hospital is calling off some elective surgeries in the Rocket City and in Guntersville and Boaz. A top hospital official said other hospitals, like here in Birmingham, are talking about it.

As of right now, it’s business as usual at UAB. No decision has been made on reducing elective surgeries despite the fact the hospital is seeing a record number of COVID patients. “1,827 a new record.” Dr. Don Williamson, Executive Director of the Alabama Hospital Association said.

Williamson is alarmed at the increasing number because it does not including the expected Thanksgiving Holiday weekend surge.

“I’m very concerned we are going to go through 2,000 people in the hospital, certainly by the middle to the end of next week and frankly that is not the level we have contemplated,” Williamson said.

Williamson said while Huntsville Hospital has taken the drastic step to cut back on some elective surgeries, others are considering it. “In talking with hospitals in Birmingham they either have a plan in place to reduce its non-emergent procedures or they are in active conversation with their medical staff about those changes,” Williamson said.

Williamson said hospitals cut out elective surgeries before but they learned a valuable lesson. “When all elective procedures were canceled the first time, we saw a substantial increase in severity level of illness in patients who came in,” Williamson said.

Williamson said those patient’s health was worse and put at risk delaying surgery. The delay made them suffer more. Tomorrow UAB will update their situation about capacity and elective care.

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