COVID clogged his own state’s hospitals, 43 regional hospitals had no room, he died in a neighboring state, obituary says

Published 9:19 pm Monday, September 13, 2021

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.”