Alabama Hospitals Have Run Out Of ICU Beds

by Kristina Johnson

Alabama is teetering on the brink of the disaster as critically ill patients wait for ICU beds

Alabama hit a terrifying milestone this week amid the latest surge of the pandemic. Every single available ICU bed in the state was filled up, leaving doctors and nurses with nowhere to put some of their most desperately sick patients.

“We’ve never been here before. We are truly now in uncharted territory in terms of our ICU bed capacity,” Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson told local news station WSFA. Williamson said that dozens of patients across the state were desperately waiting for ICU beds to open up, forcing some hospitals to create overflow areas outside of their normal ICUs.

That isn’t just a problem for Covid positive patients, but also for anyone who has the misfortune to suffer a heart attack, stroke, or other serious injury and then needs intensive care.

“It’s really just a domino effect that then clogs up our ERs and clogs up everything else. You can imagine when you’re trying to take care of ICU-level patients in an emergency department, how are you going to accommodate people coming in — again, not just for COVID, but for all the usual things that people use the ED floor for? It’s a very, very tenuous situation,” Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, explained on CNN. She warned that if things don’t turn around rapidly, the situation could be “apocalyptic” by September.

The average daily number of people hospitalized in Alabama with Covid is hovering around 2700, and Williamson said there’s a big common link among them: just 12% are fully vaccinated — meaning many of those hospitalizations were likely preventable.

Alabama has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with less than 40% of the adult population fully protected.

Last week, the state’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey stressed that Alabama residents should get the vaccine, calling it “our greatest weapon against Covid-19.” She also noted, however, that there will be “absolutely no mandates, closures, or the like,” which means the surge in hospitalized patients likely won’t be going away anytime soon.

Ivey instituted a “limited” state of emergency to help funnel more resources to hospitals, but it may not be enough. Williams told WSFA that the state probably hasn’t seen its peak yet, and with one of the highest positivity rates in the country, cases and hospitalizations will likely continue to rise.

The only silver lining out of all that? The dire situation does seem to be motivating more Alabamans to finally go get the shot — Ivey noted that sign-ups had increased by 100% over the last month. Better late than never.