ASPR Hospital Association COVID-19 Supplemental Funding Allows Rural Alabama Hospital to Continue Serving its Community
In early 2020, Whitfield Regional Hospital in Demopolis, Alabama, was close to closing its doors for good. The hospital was functioning at 25 percent of its licensed bed capacity and lacked up-to-date equipment and sufficient resources to provide high-quality care to its patients. Then, in March 2020, COVID-19 changed everything for this rural Alabama hospital.
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) established a committee to create statewide pandemic preparedness plans for the health sector well before COVID-19, in 2006. This state committee consisted of health care coalitions (HCCs), hospitals, emergency medical services (EMS), assisted living facilities, nursing homes, sheriff’s departments, fire departments, and even pharmacies across the state. The committee worked together to create the
Alabama Healthcare Disaster Planning Guide, which contains information on infection control and the process for securing critical personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as ventilator and oxygen resources. In addition, it contained communication plans to support health care coalitions and staff educational resources to enhance pandemic preparedness. When COVID-19 began to spread in Alabama in March 2020, the state had a plan, and it became a matter of obtaining the resources to carry out their plan.
Whitfield Regional Hospital received ASPR COVID-19 supplemental funding, which provided them the ability to carry out the preparedness plan they had in place. The hospital used funding to replace patient beds that were over 25 years old. ASPR funding was also used to remodel its primary intensive care unit (ICU) and purchase new equipment for an alternate ICU, allowing the hospital to accommodate more patients. Whitfield Regional Hospital used ADPH’s plan to guide them in responding to the pandemic. The hospital formed the COVID-19 Planning and Response Committee, which held daily safety meetings that allowed the state health department to maintain situational awareness of the spread of COVID-19 and assess staffing and PPE needs.
With a plan and new resources, the hospital was able to expand outreach in several ways. Whitfield partnered with University of Alabama-Birmingham to accommodate patients from overwhelmed hospitals across the state. In addition, Whitfield Regional Hospital was one of the first hospitals in the state to begin a COVID-19 testing program with drive-thru and mobile capabilities. Finally, Whitfield was one of the first hospitals in the county to provide COVID-19 vaccinations. The hospital led efforts to vaccinate 46 percent of the county’s adult population— the highest vaccination rate in the southwest district of Alabama
ASPR funding supported Whitfield Regional Hospital at a crucial time, ensuring the hospital could not only stay open but also expand its capacity to serve the community and state throughout the pandemic. Whitfield now operates at full capacity with the ability to serve ten additional COVID-19 patients daily. Additionally, the pandemic plan provided Whitfield with a blueprint to guide effective response and preparedness efforts.