ICU bed shortage across Alabama, but one Wiregrass hospital has a plan


DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — State health officer Dr. Scott Harris announced that the state of Alabama is at an all-time low with the number of ICU beds available.

Here in the Wiregrass, the case is no different. Southeast health is currently using all 42 of their ICU beds meaning none are available.

“Well I think some of it is COVID, but I think some of it was just the general need for patients who are acutely ill,” said, Tena Knight, Associate Chief Nurshing Officer at Southeast Health.

Currently, Southeast Health has 26 patients in their hospital being treated for COVID-19, not all of those patients are in critical condition.

“All COVID patients are not in the ICU, so there are some COVID patients in the ICU but the majority of the patients are not COVID. So the ICU is not just COVID patients it’s all patients that meet the need for intensive care,” Knight said.

Southeast health has 2 intensive care units that in total hold 42 ICU beds. Of the 42 ICU beds, only 8 of them are being used by patients being treated for COVID-19.

“And our 32-bed unit is where we actually house or cohort the COVID patients,” Knight explained.

Knight says this shortage is not an uncommon challenge for them, and the hospital has throughout meetings daily to transition patients that are no longer in need of critical care to different places in the hospital to make room for more critical patients.

“That being said though we have been proactive in surge planning so should the need arise we’ve met to discuss how we would expand and adapt to that need,” Knight explained. “So that would include staff planning, space planning, supply planning, all of those things that would be critical if the need arose.”

Knight tells us Southeast Health is in constant communication with the health care coalition, and other hospitals within their region so that they can plan for a surge in needs for more ICU beds in their hospital or across the state.

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