UAB Hospital Braces For ‘Terrifying’ Increase in COVID Hospitalizations

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Mary Scott Hodgin

UAB’s Chief of Hospital Medicine Dr. Kiersten Kennedy said the hospital is preparing for a possible doubling of COVID patients next week.

As Alabama extends its statewide mask order, UAB Hospital is preparing for what could be a “terrifying” increase in COVID hospitalizations. 

“We are exhausted and it’s only the beginning,” said UAB’s Chief of Hospital Medicine Dr. Kiersten Kennedy during a press conference Wednesday. 

Kennedy said public health experts predict the hospital’s COVID patient load to double by next week. As of Tuesday afternoon, the hospital was caring for 140 inpatients.

UAB is reducing elective procedures, expanding capacity in Intensive Care Units and recruiting more staff to keep up with increasing demand. 

“When you start to get overwhelmed with all these COVID volumes, it decreases your ability to care for the non-COVID patients,” Kennedy said. 

COVID patients currently occupy about 13% of hospital beds in Jefferson County, home to UAB, the state’s largest hospital. In other counties, COVID patients occupy more than 30% of hospital inpatient beds, with Fayette and Tallapoosa counties nearing a 40% occupancy rate. 

Kennedy said if something does not change soon, hospitals across Alabama could become overwhelmed and unable to care for patients. 

“I don’t think any of us has lived during a time where we’ve had to worry that if we got really sick, that if you came to a hospital, people would not be able to rush you back and take care of you immediately,” she said, “And what we’re saying is that we are reaching that point.”

Kennedy said UAB Hospital is starting to see patients who contracted COVID while traveling or gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday. She urges people to avoid gathering for Christmas and New Years. 

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