‘Healthcare system under siege’: Doctor says Alabama hospitals still overwhelmed

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – One of UAB’s top infectious disease experts says Alabama’s healthcare system is under siege, almost reaching its limit with the current state of the pandemic.

“I think the current healthcare system, especially in Alabama, is under siege,” Dr. Michael Saag with UAB said.

The siege on the healthcare system has doctors and nurses concerned.

“We’re definitely in a crisis at this time,” Lindsay Harris with the Alabama State Nurses Association said.

“We are struggling at every level just to kind of keep our head above water,” Dr. Saag said.

If this pattern of COVID continues, they aren’t sure if hospitals can handle more.

“I don’t know. We may have to find out if our hospitals can handle the continued onslaught,” Dr. Saag said.

Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association says the trend right now is going in a positive direction, but isn’t sure how long it will last. He says before the pandemic, they usually had hundreds of ICU beds available. But that has changed drastically in the last year.

“What COVID did, is that it added 700 to 800 ICU patients in a system that didn’t have the capacity to handle,” Dr. Williamson said.

Dr. Saag says recent months have been tough on healthcare workers’ patience, for when they see more and more people with COVID that are not vaccinated, it’s hard not to be frustrated, because they know the vaccine would have protected them.

“It takes a lot of professionalism to say ‘OK. I don’t agree with that choice,'” Dr. Saag said. “Because they wouldn’t be here right now. And they wouldn’t be on ventilator and they wouldn’t be dying.”

The frustration doesn’t mean they’re giving up hope.

“And yet, I’m going to rise above that. I’m going to rise above those feelings and I’m going to provide the best care that I can,” Dr. Saag said.

Because all healthcare workers, through the problems, want to take care of patients.

“It has shined a light on many of the things that we as health care providers should start looking at. Should start preparing for,” Harris said.

But in order to address other issues the system faces, the pandemic needs to end.

CBS 42 reached out to State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris for comment, but he was not able to as of Wednesday.

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