UAB Doctors Concerned Over Growing Number of Coronavirus Patients

The illustration shows a standard setup for a ventilator in a hospital room. The ventilator pushes warm, moist air with increased oxygen to the patient. Exhaled air flows away from the patient. (Source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, NIH)

As the number of patients being treated for coronavirus in the Birmingham area increases, UAB doctors say they are extremely concerned about the rapid growth of the pandemic.

UAB Hospital reported 60 confirmed cases of the disease late Wednesday, with 30 patients on ventilators. There had been 18 on ventilators Wednesday morning.

Grandview Hospital reported one coronavirus case early Wednesday, but the number rose to two by afternoon.

Alabama had 386 confirmed cases of coronavirus late Wednesday, almost half in Jefferson and Shelby counties. Jefferson had 129 cases and Shelby 42.

A spokeswoman for Tenet Healthcare, headquartered in Alabama at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, refused to respond to a question about the number of cases under treatment. Affiliated hospitals include Princeton Baptist and hospitals in Shelby and Walker counties.

Leisha Harris of Grandview Medical Center said the hospital has worked closely with the Alabama Department of Public Health testing patients with symptoms associated with coronavirus.

“Our hospital continually works to ensure preparedness for all types of infectious diseases. We are well prepared to support these patients during testing and treatment, and to continue providing medical care for all patients in our care while protecting the safety of our caregiving team and other patients,” Harris said. “We take seriously our role in helping to keep our community healthy, and we appreciate the agencies that are assisting us.”

There are 1,344 ventilators in the state, including 300 at UAB Hospital.

”We have a lot,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases. “But the question is, will we have enough.”

Dr. Eric Wallace, director of eMedicine at UAB, expressed concern over the possibility of having an overwhelming number of people needing critical care beds.

“There are critical care beds out there in Alabama that are not as well-utilized and do not have, for instance, pulmonary critical care oversight for high-risk patients,” Wallace said. ”UAB eMedicine already has telecritical care up and running at four hospitals, and we are working to expand that to increase the work force at these facilities.

“We also have an option if UAB beds become full, we can export and use external beds and manage these patients in a very safe way,” he said.