BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The number of ICU beds across the state continues to trend into negative territory. Hospital leaders say the trend began in mid-August and has now reached its highest point ever during the pandemic.

The Alabama Hospital Association said it’s hard to put a numeric value on when volume becomes too much for hospitals to handle, but officials said they need more staff to keep providing quality care.

“I can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, but we’re certainly not trending in the right direction,” Alabama Hospital Association Deputy Director Danne Howard said. “That’s why we’re so aggressively trying to find additional resources, so those decisions don’t have to be made, so those type of life-or-death situations are not something that have to be faced.”

On Tuesday we saw negative 83 ICU beds statewide, and now on Wednesday, that number is at negative 94. More than half of those patients are battling COVID.

Howard said relief can’t come fast enough. The association is working daily with the governor’s office and the state health department to find staff and resources, but Hurricane Ida has taken much of it away as federal medical teams have been deployed to help there.

“That will not alleviate the problem because there’s simply not enough resources available right now, but we’re looking long term to be able to add to what resources may be able to be found,” Howard said.

Howard said the tipping point isn’t that far away.

“We’re not throwing in the towel, but it is a dire and serious situation,” she said.

The Alabama Hospital Association said hospitals do have the capability to expand capacity – but what’s holding them back is the lack of staff to adequately handle it. The association said you can help Alabama hospitals by keeping up behaviors we’ve been practicing for 18 months now and by only going to the ER when you are experiencing a true emergency.