DECATUR, Ala. — Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is right around the corner. Health leaders have expressed their concerns about battling a potential coronavirus spike after the holidays. But, some hospitals are already struggling to keep up right now.
Representatives from Decatur Morgan Hospital say they’ve had to take things ‘one day at a time’ to find get through the pandemic. With ICU beds full and major staffing concerns, the hospital is considering all options to be able to treat as many people as they can.
We spoke with Kelli Powers of Decatur Morgan Hospital during a virtual COVID-19 update. Powers says, “We’re stretched just like everyone else.”
Although COVID-19 patient numbers are high, the staff of nurses is low. Powers adds, “We are currently in a staffing shortage. We’ve been paying incentives to get our nurses to work extra shifts for a while now. And they are so tired that money is no longer that important.”
As of now, 19 staff members are positive for COVID-19 and 20 other staff members are currently in quarantine. Powers tells reporters, “It’s not hospital spread, It’s community spread.”
In order to fill the need, nurses are being pulled from all directions. “... call on all of our resources including nurses that are working at the desk, doing desk jobs that used to work at the bedside. Trying to get some students to help us.”
We’re told the hospital is reaching out to hire some more. Powers says, “We probably need another 15 nurses, some of those are nighttime nurses which are hard to find too. And maybe 10, or so, nursing assistants.”
But, competition for health workers is high across the country. Powers explains why some nurses may choose to work in different states. She says, “Some of these other states can pay a whole lot better than we can because their reimbursement is so much better than what we get here.”
The staff members they already have at Decatur Morgan Hospital are tired. Powers says, “What they need is time off and extra nurses so they don’t have to take as many patients."
The hospital system’s ICU beds are completely full. We’re told there are 71 beds in total. Twenty-six at the hospital’s Parkway Campus, and the remaining 45 at Decatur Main campus. Powers says, “I believe some of this was from Halloween, So, we really haven’t had enough time go by from Thanksgiving to really see this increase”
With news of potential coronavirus vaccine distributions in the near future, the hospital does have a plan in place. Powers explains, “We have created an internal task force because we hope to be able to vaccinate our front line staff first. So, all of our nurses, CNAs, housekeeping-- everyone working on those COVID units. I would like to have them, including the physicians and the nurse practitioners vaccinated first. And then, I have also agreed to help the county and city vaccinate the first responders.”