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Huntsville Hospital on rising COVID-19 cases, potential staffing issues as holidays approach

Coronavirus cases are breaking records nationally. We’re starting to see the effects in Alabama. How are our hospital systems being impacted?

HUNTSVILLE, Ala — Our team met with an expert at Huntsville Hospital to hear what health care workers seeing, and if they’re preparing for a potential surge. 

Coronavirus cases are breaking records nationally. We’re starting to see the effects in Alabama. How are our hospital systems being impacted?

We met with Dr. Hafsa Siddiqui, an Infectious Disease Consultant with Huntsville Hospital. She tells our reporter, “In the last week or so, we are seeing that the cases related to COVID-19 infection are going up and people should worry about it and take precaution.” 

Huntsville Hospital COVID

The Huntsville Hospital system is prepping for the worst.

Dr. Siddiqui says, “We have a policy in place, an emergency plan that’s been in place since April and our administration is on top of that. We discuss it routinely and the number of cases.” 

With cases on the rise, we asked if the hospital is facing any staffing issues. Dr. Siddiqui says, “Currently, we are going through a shortage… So, in the coming months, if we continue to see the same number of cases or we continue to have health care workers going on quarantine or acquiring, themselves, COVID-19… Yes, there is a chance we expect to see a shortage or the burden on the rest of the health care workers and health care system.”

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We're told Huntsville Hospital has a sufficient amount of PPE at the moment. Dr. Siddiqui says, “For now, we are good. But, we don’t know how much the numbers will go up and whether we’ll have adequate supplies at that time or not. But, I would say that right now we have enough. 

Dr. Siddiqui adds there's a chance in-person voting from election day could actually impact the COVID numbers soon. She explains, “We usually see the impact after two to three weeks of a large gathering. We have the same thing with Halloween, a lot of people went out and celebrated it.” 

North Dakota has made headlines after allowing health care workers to remain on the job after testing positive for COVID-19. This decision comes after hospitals reached 100% capacity. We asked if this is something that could happen in Huntsville Hospital systems if they see an uncontrollable spike. Dr. Siddiqui says, “In emergency situations, in tough situations, yes you take measures that you don’t normally take.”

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She explains why this choice might be made in the event of an extreme staffing shortage. She says, “Yes, if it comes to that, then taking care of patients is the first priority. If the health care worker is positive and they’re only being exposed to people who are positive, then it doesn't make a difference between them. As long as we are taking care of the patients.”

Dr. Siddiqui tells me with the rise in coronavirus cases and the holidays right around the corner, this could be a recipe for disaster. 

She’s encouraging you to not mix groups during the holidays and consider virtual celebrations. 

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