Our View

As Alabama COVID-19 hospitalizations reached their second peak this month, the police scanner is starting to sound like a broken record of calls for hospital patient transfers.  

"It is extremely hard to find beds anywhere," Ivy Creek Healthcare director of nursing Bruner told The Outlook this week. "We have sent patients across state lines to get the bed placement when necessary."

Ivy Creek operates two local hospitals without ICUs or ventilators. Those hospitals with ventilators, including Russell Medical, Coosa Valley Medical Center and East Alabama Medical Center, are currently at or exceeding ICU capacity.

As the saying goes, we don't know what we've got until it's gone. In some communities, however, this issue predates the pandemic. According to the Alabama Hospital Association (AHA), 17 rural hospitals have shut in the last decade with only one of those reopening, not for a lack of patients, but an inability to cover costs thanks to the rising number of uninsured alongside federal cuts to Medicare, AHA president Dr. Don Williams told the Associated Press earlier this year.

Right now, local patients are being transferred as far as Atlanta to be put on a ventilator. Without our rural hospitals, this could be a permanent reality.