Rural Alabama hospitals battling COVID-19 surges, nursing shortages

Some hospitals in more rural communities are in need of staff.
Some hospitals in more rural communities are in need of staff.(Source: WTVY)
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 8:53 PM EDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Medical professionals across the state are continuing to fight the coronavirus pandemic as variants emerge and infect more Alabamians.

“The delta variant is driving this,” Dr. Mary McIntyre with the Alabama Department of Public Health said. “You really need to get vaccinated as soon as you can.”

Despite smaller populations, hospitals in more rural areas are also seeing the uptick.


Crenshaw Community Hospital is changing its visitation policy following a COVID-19 spike in its area. Effective immediately, the emergency room will not allow visitors.

Exceptions are made for “end of life, caregiver of those with disabilities, or a parent of an underage child,” the hospital posted.

However, the medical surgical unit will allow one guest per patient, who shall remain in that patient’s room, after a required COVID-19 screening.

“Any changes or exceptions will be at the discretion of the medical staff,” the hospital said.


Hospital leaders in the Wiregrass are seeing a nursing shortage, struggling to compete with the salary provided in more metropolitan areas.

Dale Medical Center is at full capacity for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The facility is looking to hire 25 nurses in order to keep up.

“We need our nurses to come home, find their home base and take care of our patients,” CEO Vernon Johnson said.

Southeast Health is also straining to hire nurses. When a position become available, the hospital said it has up to a 90-day turnaround to fill it.

“They are emotionally strained, and they feel that it’s very difficult to motivate them to pick up extra shifts,” chief nursing officer Melissa Owens said. “It’s very difficult to motivate them to work extra days or even in alternate locations throughout the facility”


Troy Regional Medical Center is also seeing more positive cases. The hospital said its daily testing positivity rates from this week range from 22%-38%. They said on-site testing will continue. The hospital is also providing shots.

“Vaccinations are still available here at Troy Regional and other locations in the area,” CEO Rick E. Smith said in a statement. “We certainly encourage all our residents to become vaccinated.”


Washington County Hospital and Nursing Home said it currently has more COVID-19 patients from the community than it has had at any point.

A hospital official tells us their seeing more inpatient and outpatient ER visits. The facility said rooms are still available and that medical professionals are managing the increase in patients.

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