Alabama Hospital Association concerned about statewide ICU bed shortage during COVID-19 pandemic

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Alabama, so do concerns about the number of available ICU beds. The president of the Alabama Hospital Association says he’s worried things will only get worse in the coming months.

As of Wednesday morning, only 268 ICU beds were available statewide, or roughly 16% of the state’s capacity, according to AHA president Dr. Don Williamson. On some days, places like Tuscaloosa and Montgomery may have just one or even no ICU beds available.

Williamson said it’s a bad situation for the state’s hospitals.

“I see nothing at all that suggests to me that this pandemic is coming under control,” Williamson said. “And I don’t see any evidence that our social distancing behavior is improving.”

That, Williamson said, is the key to improvement. If people aren’t willing to do that, the numbers may not go down, and it could lead to a high case rate during the summer and beyond.

“When children come back to school in August or early September, colleges reopen, we (could) find ourselves in a situation where we are primed to have major outbreaks in the fall,” he said.

Williamson said he’s not concerned about the number of ventilators (roughly 900) and regular hospital beds (about 2,000). However, if coronavirus numbers continue to rise statewid, an ICU bed shortage could lead to others problems, such as a reduced capacity for heart attack and stroke patients.

“And I’m just concerned that this is a harbinger of what could be a much, much worse situation in the coming days, unless we as citizens own our responsibility to protect our neighbors,” he said.

Williamson said people can lower the case numbers statewide by wearing masks and practicing social distancing, but it’s concerning to him that people aren’t doing this as well as they should.


Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.