Thousands of people from across the globe will gather in Birmingham next week to celebrate The World Games, an influx that will increase pressure on local health providers.
Officials with the state’s largest hospital said during a press conference Wednesday they are prepared to care for athletes and spectators.
The biggest concern is heat-related illness.
“Y’all may have noticed, but it’s really hot outside,” said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of clinical support services at UAB Hospital.
Nafziger said area hospitals and nursing schools are collaborating to staff first aid stations and medical tents to care for spectators at every venue.
Cooling stations will be available with ice, fans and hydration.
For more serious injuries, medical providers are working with the Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services to coordinate transportation to hospitals.
Nafizinger said UAB has increased staffing and added telemedicine capacity.
She said the hospital is prepared for a possible surge in patient volume, but the goal is to treat as many people as possible onsite at The World Games.
“We’re setting all this up in an effort to hopefully not overload the local system of emergency departments and urgent cares,” Nafziger said.
Jefferson County, and most of Alabama, continue to face a high level of community spread of COVID-19. County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson encouraged event spectators to wear masks indoors and get vaccinated against COVID-19, although neither is required.
COVID testing will not be provided at venue medical tents, but the health department recently opened a new rapid COVID testing site downtown that can test around 300 people per day free of charge.
Wilson said local and state health departments are also monitoring the global spread of Monkeypox, but he said it shouldn’t be a big concern for people attending The World Games.
“We have not had cases detected yet in the state of Alabama,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but we are prepared to do testing and contact tracing if needed.”
UAB medical personnel will work with Andrews Sports Medicine to care for athletes with orthopedic injuries and other needs.
“Lots of planning that’s been going on over the past two and half years,” said Dr. Irfan Asif, chief of UAB Sports Medicine. “I think we’re well equipped for the things we’ll probably see in the next few weeks.”