As of Monday, the Huntsville Hospital system is caring for less than half of the number of in-patients it had during the holiday spike. After hitting a peak of more than 500, the number is now at 214.
The hospital's Vice President of Operations, Tracy Doughty, said the decline is a step forward not just for North Alabama, but also the hospital itself.
Doughty said the drop in hospitalizations means more people are following CDC guidelines.
He also said this allows the hospital to start the process of resuming elective surgeries, after being put on hold for several months. Doughty said it's up to doctors to let them know which procedures need to happen first. Once those are complete, they'll move forward one facility at a time.
Doughty said they'll start with patients at Women's and Children's, then the Governors Medical Tower, and then look at options to do more at the main campus too. To start, doctors will determine the urgency in which patients need to have the surgery and work with them to get it scheduled.
Doughty said after only being able to do emergency and out-patient surgeries, this is a big step forward.
“I think it’s a good sign to the community, you know, that we’re getting back to normal. Don’t want it to signal the end of this fight against COVID," said Doughty. "We need to definitely maintain our social distance, be safe, wash our hands and all those things we’ve learned over the last year almost, but we can see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
He suggests getting in contact with your doctor if you previously had an elective surgery that was put on hold.
Doughty said the Huntsville Hospital is still busy treating patients with respiratory illnesses, but he said they've been able to consolidate the COVID units and open up beds for other patients.
The lower number of COVID patients means the hospital now has the flexibility to move their staff where they're needed according to Doughty.
“Staff is working well in their departments, we’re able to move people around to help with the vaccine clinic, but as surgery opens back up, we’ll move some of those folks back to the surgery areas, and we’ve got folks already signed up to help," said Doughty.
Doughty said it's exciting to see the number of COVID patients go down, but everyone needs to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing so the number can stay down.