BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – There are now more patients on ventilators throughout the state than there have ever been during the pandemic.
The Alabama Hospital Association said 40% of ventilators are still available, so they don’t believe they will run out. The problem remains that there is still not enough specialized staff to man those ventilators when they are needed.
“Those who are hospitalized are sicker and needing more intense care,” Alabama Hospital Association Deputy Director Danne Howard said. “It’s not necessarily the equipment, it’s the staff to be able to safely monitor and run the equipment.”
On Thursday, there were negative 120 ICU beds for those patients needing the most care. That’s up from negative 94 on Wednesday.
Not enough trained staff, including having respiratory therapists like Angelica Jefferson, is contributing to the problem. Jefferson has been a respiratory therapist for over 30 years. She said the last place you want to be is on that ventilator.
“It’s overwhelming,” Jefferson said. “The longer they’re on the ventilator, the longer they’re sedated and depending on a lot of different physiological changes with their body, when they do come off of the ventilator, they can be extremely weak.”
According to Jefferson, the best thing you can do is go to the hospital if you’re having trouble breathing and feeling COVID-like symptoms.
“When they get in respiratory distress they really need to get to a hospital and get seen,” Jefferson said. “The earlier they’re seen that may prevent them from going on a ventilator.”
This will continue to get harder with more patients and less staff.
“We’re working with the governor’s office, Dr. Harris working to secure anything we can to help,” Howard said.
Howard and Jefferson said the best thing you can do to help them is get vaccinated and continue those best behaviors to avoid getting on the ventilator in the first place and increase your chance of staying alive a little longer.