Hospital patient transfers difficult in Alabama

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 5:18 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The search for hospital bed space for people in need of healthcare continues to be a problem in Alabama. Some patients are seeking available beds outside of Alabama and that is not easy.

There are almost 70 more patients in need of ICU beds than are available in Alabama. Hospitals will not turn anyone away from care but they are doing what they can to free up beds. Alabama hospitals are seeing a slight decline in hospitalizations, but the numbers remain too high and continue to be what many call a crisis.

“The ability to transfer patients has not gotten better. We are admitting patients to hospitals and they need more advanced care than that hospital can provide. There is just no place to transfer them,” Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association said.

At DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa they are taking steps to reduce the stain on their bed space and staff.

“At times we ask ambulance companies who have patients from out of the county to take those patients to other hospitals at all possible,” Andy North with DCH Regional Medical Center said.

North said they have not transferred any patient out of state but they look for other hospitals and long term care facilities. Hospitals take emergency cases and treat those with the most critical healthcare need, but housing is difficult for many. There have been over 800 patients in ICU’s over the last week, with more than 600 on ventilators. Williamson said Wednesday there were the fewest number of ventilators available since the start of the pandemic.

“Transfers when they happen they are going to Mississippi if you just happen to find a hospital with an available. bed. We will see an occasional one to go to Georgia or Tennessee,” Williamson said.

But Williamson said many patients are luck if an ICU bed can be found in those states which are also facing a high demand for regular and ICU beds.

Williamson says getting additional staffing will help. Some hospitals hope to hire more temporary nurses from the federal funds Governor Ivey has freed up, but Alabama is in competition with other states. Monoclonal antibody treatments could also help people from getting so sick where they need hospitalizations. DCH is looking to double their monoclonal treatments.

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