State health leaders say emergency departments are slammed with patients

Emergency room concerns as hospitals fill up

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - President of the Alabama Hospital Association, Dr. Don Williamson, said the state only has 3% of ICU beds available. He said that is only about 57 beds and the lowest it has ever been. Williamson said it is also starting to impact emergency rooms.

Williamson said admitted hospital patients, with and without COVID-19, are spending longer times in the emergency department. He said they are being managed there while waiting for ICU or other beds to open up. He said this takes away beds from other emergency patients.

Williamson said patients who are the most critically ill will be seen first in the emergency room, which could mean longer wait times for others. But, Williamson said every patient will be seen and no one is turned away.

He said some ER patients are easier to diagnose. He said it is easy to deal with patients who absolutely need to be admitted and patients who absolutely don’t need to be admitted to the hospital. But, Williamson said the patients who are most impacted by the full hospitals are patients in a gray area.

“The challenge is those patients in the middle,” Dr. Williamson said. “It’s those patients who might benefit by being hospitalized versus those who might benefit if you can manage them at home. As our hospitals are filling up, not just for COVID, but for all patients, we are increasingly trying to reserve available beds for the absolute sickest patients. That tends to move that needle to managing as much at home as you possibly can.”

Dr. Williamson said he is not discouraging anyone from visiting the emergency room. He said all E.R’s across the state are still taking patients.

Williamson said if feel like you need to go to the hospital, then still go to the emergency room.

Copyright 2021 WBRC. All rights reserved.