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Hospitals across the state battling nursing shortages as COVID-19 cases rise

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 11:09 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - COVIS Hospitalizations across the state are now higher than 600 for the first time since February and as that number continues to grow, so does the need for nurses.

Officials with the Alabama Hospital Association said nursing shortages are going to be one of the largest issues we face when it comes to tackling the Delta Variant.

“We are starting in a bad place with the nursing shortage,” President of the Alabama Hospital Association Dr. Don Williamson said. “We have had a substantial number of nurses join traveling nurse services and provide care outside the state, or even within the state, but in a different hospital and different location.”

Williamson said many nurses also left the field entirely during the pandemic and he said because of that, hospitals are already using traveling nurses to staff their units.

“As Covid cases increase in our hospitals, it will exacerbate the shortage we are already in,” Williamson said. “We are going to see increasing wait times in the ED. We are going to see increasing wait times to get into ICU. We are going to see increasing challenges with transfers.”

Williamson said there just aren’t enough nurses out there for hire, so we will likely see hospitals utilizing nursing students when they can and pulling from other departments again.

“You may pull people from other services to provide care in a Covid or ICU unit,” he said. “If it’s a place where you do elective procedures, you may have to scale back elective procedures.”

Williamson said hospitals are not there yet, but nurses are preparing for what they know is coming if more people don’t get vaccinated.

“They know unless something dramatic changes, we are in for several weeks and probably months of rising case load,” he said. “People being severely ill and ending up in the ICU and some doing very very poorly.”

Dr. Williamson said because of the Delta Variant’s strength at infecting, hospitals will still see staff members needing to quarantine for testing positive for the virus, just likely not as many as they saw when there was no vaccine.

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