Family: Man turned away by dozens of COVID-filled hospitals

Credit: CDC

A family is urging people to get vaccinated after their 73-year-old relative was turned away from dozens of hospitals dealing with a surge in coronavirus patients.

Posted: Sep 14, 2021 9:24 AM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — As hundreds of mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients filled Alabama intensive care units, hospital staff in north Alabama contacted 43 hospitals in three states to find a specialty cardiac ICU bed for Ray Martin DeMonia, his family wrote in his obituary.

The Cullman man was finally transferred to Meridian, Mississippi, about 170 miles (274 kilometers) away. That is where the 73-year-old antiques dealer died Sept. 1 because of the cardiac event he suffered. Now, his family is making a plea.

“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non-COVID related emergencies,” his obituary read.

“Due to COVID-19, CRMC emergency staff contacted 43 hospitals in three states in search of a cardiac ICU bed and finally located one in Meridian, MS,” his obituary read, referencing Cullman Regional Medical Center. “He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”

Alabama for weeks has seen a surge of mostly unvaccinated patients filling hospitals and intensive care units, making it increasingly difficult to transfer patients to other facilities for specialty care, said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association.

“Every day hospitals are trying to find a place to transfer patients, and it is very difficult,” Williamson said. “We’ve had patients transferred to Georgia, to Kentucky to Florida.”

Jennifer Malone, a spokesperson for the Cullman hospital, confirmed DeMonia was a patient and said he needed to be transferred to receive a higher level of specialized care not available at Cullman Regional Medical Center. She could not comment more for privacy reasons, but said, the “continued surge in COVID patients has saturated tertiary care hospitals creating an ongoing and increasing challenge for Cullman Regional staff to find hospitals able to receive patient transfers when needed.”

Williamson also could not comment on DeMonia's case but said the struggle to find an open bed to transfer a patient is a scenario being played out daily.

“Basically, half of our ICU beds are now filled with COVID patients,” Williamson said.

Alabama on Monday had 2,474 COVID-19 patients in state hospitals of which 86% were unvaccinated, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.

Nearly half of the state’s intensive care unit beds, or 772 beds, are occupied by a person with COVID-19. And the surge of patients meant some hospitals had to convert other space to ICUs. Patients who normally would be treated in ICU wards are instead being cared for in emergency rooms, normal beds or even gurneys left in hallways, state officials said.

The state had 1,562 ICU patients Monday, but 1,551 dedicated ICU beds.

The situation was even worse on Sept. 1 when DeMonia passed away. The state that day had 92 more patients needing ICU care than it had dedicated beds. DeMonia's daughter did not immediately respond to a Facebook message seeking comment.

After threatening to reach an all-time high for hospitalizations during the coronavirus pandemic, state hospitals have seen a slight decline in recent days, Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said last week.

“We continue to have a real crisis in Alabama with our ICU bed capacity,” Harris said.

While Harris said Alabama’s vaccination numbers have improved in recent weeks as the state recorded double-digit deaths daily for a month or so, just under 40% of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, compared with 53% nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In his obituary and in a story in his hometown paper, The Cullman Times, DeMonia was remembered as a family man who developed a love of antiques as a child and volunteered his auctioneering skills, and sense of showmanship, at community fundraisers.

“Ray DeMonia was like no other," his family wrote.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
Tishomingo333288
Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
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