COVID-19: 43 Hospitals Turned Away Alabama Patient

(MONTGOMERY, Alabama) – As hundreds of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients filled Alabama’s intensive care units, hospital staff in northern Alabama contacted 43 hospitals in three states to find a bed. cardiac ICU specialist for Ray Martin DeMonia, his family wrote in his obituary.

Cullman’s man was eventually flown to Meridian, Mississippi, about 170 miles (274 kilometers) away. The 73-year-old antiquarian died there on September 1 from the heart attack he suffered. Now, his family is making a plea.

“In honor of Ray, get vaccinated if you haven’t already, in an effort to free up resources for non-COVID emergencies,” your obituary read.

“Due to COVID-19, CRMC emergency personnel contacted 43 hospitals in three states in search of a cardiac ICU bed and eventually located one in Meridian, MS,” their obituary read, referencing Cullman Regional Medical Center. . “I wouldn’t want any other family to go through what happened.”

Alabama for weeks has seen an increase in mostly unvaccinated patients filling hospitals and intensive care units, making it increasingly difficult to transfer patients to other facilities for specialty care, said Dr. Don Williamson. , former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association. .

“Every day, hospitals are trying to find a place to transfer patients, and it is very difficult,” Williamson said. “We have had patients transferred to Georgia, from Kentucky to Florida.”

Jennifer Malone, a spokeswoman for Cullman Hospital, confirmed that DeMonia was a patient and said she needed to be transferred to receive a higher level of specialized care that is not available at Cullman Regional Medical Center. He was unable to comment further for privacy reasons, but said that “the continued increase in COVID patients has overwhelmed tertiary care hospitals, creating an ongoing and growing challenge for Cullman Regional staff to find hospitals capable of receiving transfers from patients when necessary. “

Williamson was also unable to comment on the DeMonia case, but said the struggle to find an open bed to transfer a patient is a scenario that unfolds on a daily basis.

“Basically half of our ICU beds are now full of COVID patients,” Williamson said.

Alabama on Monday had 2,474 COVID-19 patients in state hospitals, of which 86% were not vaccinated, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.

Nearly half of the state’s intensive care unit beds, or 772 beds, are occupied by a person with COVID-19. And the increase in patients meant that some hospitals had to convert another space into an ICU. Patients who would normally be treated in ICU wards are being cared for in emergency rooms, regular beds or even stretchers in the hallways, state officials said.

The state had 1,562 ICU patients on Monday, but 1,551 dedicated ICU beds.

The situation was even worse on September 1 when DeMonia passed away. That day, the state had 92 more patients needing ICU care than dedicated beds. DeMonia’s daughter did not immediately respond to a Facebook message seeking comment.

After threatening to hit an all-time high in hospitalizations during the coronavirus pandemic, state hospitals have seen a slight decline in recent days, Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said last week.

“We continue to have a real crisis in Alabama with our ICU bed capacity,” Harris said.

While Harris said Alabama’s vaccination numbers have improved in recent weeks, as the state recorded double-digit deaths a day for about a month, just under 40% of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, in comparison. with 53% nationally, according to the Centers for Disease. Control and Prevention.

In his obituary and in a story in his hometown newspaper, The Cullman TimesDeMonia was remembered as a family man who developed a love of antiques as a child and offered his auctioneer skills and sense of showmanship at community fundraisers.

“Ray DeMonia was like no other,” wrote his family.

Contact Us to letters@time.com.

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