'We are breakable': Alabama hospital delaying some surgeries amid COVID-19 surge

UAB Hospital in Alabama will start delaying about 400 essential inpatient surgeries per month, or 20 per day, to preserve healthcare resources amid a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, AL.com reported Aug. 12. 

UAB's emergency rooms are currently over capacity and the hospital has begun denying specialty care transfer requests. About 91 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients at UAB are unvaccinated, AL.com reports. 

"Our hospitals have a breaking point," said Sarah Nafziger, MD, vice president of clinical support services at UAB Medicine, "We have a lot of healthcare resources in this state, but they are not infinite. We are breakable." 

This comes as about 140-150 UAB healthcare workers are out sick with a COVID-19 infection. 

"We're trying to prevent people from dying, y'all, I don't know how to be more direct and blunt," Dr. Nafziger said during an Aug. 12 news conference. "I don't want people to panic, and I also don't want people to die because our hospital is so full of people with COVID-19."

The hospital is not delaying essential cancer surgeries or high acuity cases such as transplants at this time, UAB officials said. 

"We have not delayed cancer surgeries to date," said Jordan DeMoss, vice president of clinical operations at UAB. "We urge our communities across the state to get the COVID-19 vaccine and wear masks indoors to change the trajectory of hospitalizaitions so that we do not end up in a situation where we have to delay essential care to cancer patients," Mr. DeMoss said in an Aug. 14 statement sent to Becker's.  

As of Aug. 12, 2,400 people in Alabama were hospitalized with COVID-19 — about 10 times the number from early July. 

In a worse-case scenario, predictions from UAB researchers show COVID-19 hospitalizations could reach 7,800 by Sept. 2. Last winter, peak hospitalizations in the state were about 3,000. 

However, current case numbers indicate a more moderate trajectory, with a peak expected later in the fall. 

Editor's note: This story was last updated Aug. 14 at 2:30 p.m. CST with the correction that UAB is not delaying transplant cases or essential cancer surgeries at this time. 


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