The number of COVID patients in Anniston continues to rise, resulting in long waits and prioritized care at local emergency rooms.
The situation has forced Stringfellow Hospital to open its own COVID ward, and Regional Medical Center to open a fourth COVID ward.
At RMC, Michele Ford, director of education & infection prevention and COVID coordinator, said a total of 78 COVID patients were under the hospital’s care as of 2 p.m. Thursday, including 8 in the ER. A new COVID ward opened as a result, she said.
Of the total figure, 19 are in intensive care, with 18 of those patients on ventilators.
Stringfellow has 8 COVID patients of its own, she said.
According to RMC figures on Wednesday, given during a weekly social media broadcast, 57 patients were under the hospital’s care the week before.
Kandi Williams, infection preventionist and nurse manager, said Wednesday that out of 70 patients in the COVID units as of that day, 57 did not have a COVID vaccine.
“So 83 percent of our patients are unvaccinated, what does that mean? That means the vaccine is working,” she said.
“What we want to try to get across to you is, if you're vaccinated, you're not here with us and that’s the goal,” Williams said.
For the month of August there were 206 COVID admissions and 37 deaths at RMC; there has been a total of 11 COVID deaths so far for the month of September, Williams said.
Williams said Wednesday the emergency rooms at both RMC and Stringfellow are operating at “beyond capacity” and urged patients not requiring emergency care to avoid the emergency rooms and to seek health care at their own primary care physician.
“If you do need to come here expect long waits but know that we’re prioritizing patients based on their need and how they need to be treated,” said Williams.
“Get vaccinated. If you want to be here to see Thanksgiving and Christmas the best advice we can give you is to get vaccinated,” she said.
Dr. Raul R. Magadia, infectious disease specialist and director of the pandemic unit at RMC, said Stringfellow Hospital has eight COVID patients in its ER — last week it had just one — and the hospital is in the process of opening its own COVID ward. (RMC has owned the operational contract on Stringfellow Memorial Hospital since 2017; RMC leases the property itself from the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama.)
Magadia said the COVID ward at Stringfellow should accommodate about 12 patients.
Vaccination rates for area counties according to the Alabama Department of Public Health:
— Calhoun - 33 percent
— Cleburne - 22 percent
— Talladega - 33 percent
— St. Clair - 33 percent
— Randolph - 25 percent
— Cherokee - 28 percent