Gadsden Regional Medical Center Marketing Director Whitney Alexander said the day the hospital received its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine was one she will never forget.
Vaccine was not expected for another couple of weeks she said, when she learned on Dec. 23, 2020 from hospital pharmacy director Wayne Cornutt that boxes of vaccine had showed up. The hospital staff had worked on plans to distribute the vaccine, she said, and she went to make photos of the boxes being unloaded.
She said it was an emotional experience when the first 20 people came -- doctors and staff from the ICUs that were full of COVID patients -- to get the first dose of the vaccine.
"The first people we were able to vaccinate -- that was a good Christmas present for us," Alexander said, speaking to the Gadsden Kiwanis Club.
She said at this point, 59% of the hospital staff are fully vaccinated. The number vaccinated has increased as the delta variant has spread, Alexander said.
At this time, she said, hospital employees are not required to be vaccinated. A couple of weeks ago a requirement was implemented that requires unvaccinated employees be tested for COVID-19 every two weeks.
Alexander said the hospital now has about 40 COVID-19 patients. The medical and surgical intensive care units are full, she said, however not all of those patients have COVID. There are "20-ish" COVID patients in on medical-surgical floors, she said, people who are not critical, but are sick enough to need hospital care.
The numbers of in-patients with COVID has been decreasing in recent days. At its height, the hospital had virus patients numbering in the high-70s, she said.
A number of people are treated and discharged, Alexander said. Physicians work to treat people as quickly and efficiently as possible so they can safely send as many patients as possible home, she explained.
Based on personal experience, she said, when people can go home to heal, they heal better.
Alexander said since the hospital began noting the number of patients and their vaccination status in July, there have been about 250 patients with COVID-19. She said about 28 of them had been vaccinated.
The hospital staff is tired, she said. Alexander said she's been helping out on the COVID floors a couple of days a week "emptying trash and taking trays" and she has seen the work load.
"We're committed to seeing the end of this virus," Alexander said.
She said many member of the community had blessed the staff with gifts, cards, and words of encouragement, and their efforts have been greatly appreciated.
Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Gadsden Regional has about 40 COVID patients; 59% of staff vaccinated