Man dies after being turned away from 43 Covid-filled hospitals

His family has urged others to get vaccinated so hospital resources can be freed up for non-Covid emergencies

Maroosha Muzaffar
Monday 13 September 2021 08:11
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'Trying to find resources to avoid life-death situation': Alabama hospital association

An Alabama man died of cardiac arrest almost 200 miles away from his home after he was turned away from more than 40 hospitals that had their ICUs fully occupied with Covid-19 patients.

The family of Ray Martin DeMonia — who died on 1 September, three days before his 74th birthday — has now appealed for people to take their Covid-19 vaccines so it eases pressure on the healthcare system and frees up resources for non-Covid-related emergencies.

His family said that when DeMonia suffered a heart attack at the end of last month they contacted 43 hospitals across three states but were unable to find a single available ICU bed. They eventually found him a spot at Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, Mississippi, which is more than 200 miles away from his home in Alabama.

In an obituary for DeMonia, the family urged others to “please get vaccinated”. The family wrote: “He would not want any other family to go through what he did.”

His family added that DeMonia, a resident of Cullman, Alabama, was well known for running “DeMonia’s Antiques and Auctions, where he spent 40 years in the antique business and travelled the country gathering antiques and sharing his wealth of knowledge.”

Alabama has been among the US states facing a surge in Covid-19 hospitalisations. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, told the media that even though Alabama’s increase in hospitalisations appears to have “stabilised,” he maintained that “there are still more patients who need ICU care than there are available beds.”

Mr Harris told reporters: “We continue to have a real crisis in Alabama with our ICU bed capacity.” He added that there were about 60 more ICU patients than there were open beds in the state last week.

Danne Howard, deputy director of the Alabama Hospital Association, said that the state was in a dire situation. She said: “I can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, but we’re certainly not rending in the right direction.

“We’re not throwing in the towel, but it is a dire and serious situation,” she said.

According to data compiled by the Washington Post, nearly 2,800 people in the state were hospitalised with Covid-19 on Sunday and that includes 768 in the ICU.

Just 40 per cent of Alabama citizens are fully inoculated against Covid-19, the latest data shows. The state has the fourth-lowest vaccination rate among all states in the country.

Meanwhile, DeMonia’s family said that he had suffered a stroke in April last year but they were able to find care within three hours at a Birmingham hospital that was “Covid-free.” DeMonia himself eventually also got vaccinated.

His family said that “Ray was a great, great man, liked and respected by many.”

The US has registered more than 40.6 million Covid-19 cases and more than 655,800 deaths. With the surge in the Delta variant, several states have been battling hospital bed crises in recent months.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alabama has one of the highest rates of new Covid-19 cases in the country with roughly 541 per 100,000 people testing positive for the virus in the last seven days.

The CDC says that in that period, 259 people died.

President Joe Biden is also going to announce “new steps to slow the spread of Covid-19 before the UN General Assembly meets,” according to surgeon general Dr Vivek Murthy. He didn’t specify what those steps would be.

The next General Assembly session opens on Tuesday.

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