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The family of an Alabama man is encouraging people to get vaccinated after he was turned away from 43 ICUs while suffering from heart issues, and later died.
Ray DeMonia died on September 1 after suffering a cardiac event, his family wrote in his obituary. Before that, however, he was stranded as hospital officials tried desperately to find an ICU bed — illustrating the increasing strain hospitals are under as the current Delta wave of COVID has left roughly 100,000 people hospitalized.
A hospital in Mississippi was finally able to take DeMonia in, but he died there, three days short of his 74th birthday.
“In honor of Ray, please get vaccinated if you have not, in an effort to free up resources for non COVID related emergencies,” DeMonia’s obituary said.
“Due to COVID 19, [Cullman Regional Medical Center] emergency staff contacted 43 hospitals in 3 states in search of a Cardiac ICU bed and finally located one in Meridian, MS. He would not want any other family to go through what his did.”
Just 40 percent of Alabamans are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the country. Though cases have dipped in recent weeks and the state’s top health official said last week that hospitalizations have begun to “plateau,” more than 2,500 people still remain hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alabama.
There are more ICU patients in Alabama than there are beds, the Montgomery Advertiser reported last week. “Now's not the time to have a heart attack, or a major car wreck, or something serious because there is nowhere to send you,” Dale (County) Medical Center CEO Vernon Johnson told reporters.
DeMonia’s case is just the latest example of someone being denied medical care due to the stress of COVID on the country’s healthcare systems. Last month, 46-year-old Army veteran Daniel Wilkinson died of gallstone pancreatitis in the Houston area after doctors struggled to find a hospital to treat him.
“I've never lost a patient from this diagnosis, ever," his emergency room doctor, Dr. Hasan Kakli, told CBS News. "We are playing musical chairs, with 100 people and 10 chairs," he said. "When the music stops, what happens? People from all over the world come to Houston to get medical care and, right now, Houston can't take care of patients from the next town over. That's the reality."
In upstate New York, on the other hand, one hospital is struggling to provide routine care after nurses quit over a new vaccine mandate.
Lewis County General Hospital is pausing baby deliveries after September 24, Lewis County Health Systems CEO Gerald Cayer told reporters Friday. So far, 30 employees of the system have resigned since an order last month from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandating vaccinations for hospital employees by September 27.
Though more than 60 percent of New Yorkers are fully vaccinated, Lewis County is one of the least-vaccinated counties in the whole state, with just 44 percent of its population vaccinated. It’s also seen one of the highest rates of case growth in New York recently, with a 131 percent spike over the past 14 days, according to the New York Times.
Cayer said that so far, 73 percent of the hospital system’s workforce is at least partially vaccinated.
“Essential health services are not at risk because of the mandate,” Cayer said Friday. “The mandate ensures we will have a healthy workforce and we are not responsible for (causing COVID-19) transmission in or out of our facilities.”