Alabama Hospital Out of ICU Beds

Alabama hospital out of ICU beds has a chilling message: “You’re not going to get off the ventilator”

By Eric Fleischauer The Decatur Daily, Ala. (TNS) and 

Out of intensive care beds due to an influx of COVID patients, Decatur Morgan Hospital is setting up makeshift ICU spaces in its emergency room.

“We have no ICU beds,” CEO Kelli Powers said Monday, and nine people who would normally be in ICU rooms are being held in the emergency room.

She said the average age of the 10 COVID patients in ICU on Monday was 58, including one who was 38, two who were 42, and one who was 49. Six of the ICU patients with COVID were on ventilators.

The hospital had 44 confirmed COVID patients and another 10 who were suspected of having the virus but awaiting test results. Only 16% of the COVID patients had been vaccinated for the virus, Powers said.

An increasing problem, Powers said, is that people with COVID symptoms are waiting too long before seeking treatment. She said people are waiting until their blood-oxygen saturation level is below 90%.
“They wait until their oxygen saturation is down in the 70s or 80s. If you don’t have a (pulse oximeter), please get one or find someone who has one and check your pulse ox. If it gets below 90, you probably need to seek help and get some oxygen,” she said.

If oxygen levels are too low before a person seeks treatment, she said, the consequences can be fatal.

“What’s happening is these patients are … ending up on the ventilator,” she said. “I’m here to tell you, you’re not going to get off the ventilator. Rarely do we see people get off the ventilator.”

Both Powers and Judy Smith, administrator of the Alabama Department of Public Health Northern District, said they’ve seen an explosion of people seeking COVID tests. Smith said the number seeking tests at the Morgan County Health Department has tripled in the last three weeks.

More than 40 people were tested for COVID-19 at the Decatur Morgan Hospital Mobile Medical Unit parked in the Westmeade Baptist Church lot Monday morning, according to medical personnel administering the nasal swab tests.

“Motorists don’t need to leave their cars,” said Christy Such, clinical coordinator and registered nurse working the site. “The results will be known in three to five days.”

She said “very few” sites in Decatur offer rapid testing. There is no charge for testing, although insurance may be billed.

On Monday, Eduardo Chavez, of Decatur, had his wife and three of his children in the family SUV awaiting testing at the mobile unit.

“Nobody has symptoms, but I had a co-worker who tested positive and I wanted to make sure we are all safe. I haven’t gotten a vaccination but plan to soon,” he said. “This mobile setup is very convenient.”

Such said the mobile unit will be at the church on Beltline Road Southwest from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays until the demand wanes.

“We may go to five days a week if there is a need,” she said.

As testing has gone up, so has the percentage of tested people who have the virus. More than 1 in 5 Morgan County residents who have tested for the virus in the last week have had it. Over the last week, 458 Morgan residents have tested positive, according to ADPH data.

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