Hospitals postpone elective surgeries during COVID-19 surge

With beds filling up, hospitals are delaying more non-urgent procedures to increase ICU capacity.
Published: Nov. 15, 2020 at 9:39 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin hospitals are being forced to make difficult decisions as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise. Data on Sunday showed over 2,000 patients being treated for the virus, taking up 86 percent of the state’s hospital beds.

“No one has extra room at this point,” said UW Health Chief Quality Officer Jeff Pothof.

Kyle Nondorf, president of SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital - Madison, said bed capacity at St. Mary’s is at 95 percent.

Officials at UW Health and SSM Health said the surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations makes it harder to treat non-COVID-patients.

“We can’t run full speed ahead with what our normal medical care would be and still accommodate patients who need our services for COVID-19,” Pothof said.

Madison area hospitals announced Friday they are now putting off more procedures that are not urgent, especially ones that would normally take up space in the ICU.

“This allows us to ensure bed capacity as much as we possibly can,” Nondorf explained.

NBC15 also reached out to viewers on Facebook, asking if they have had procedures delayed recently. Dozens of people responded, saying they have had to postpone everything from regular checkups to knee surgeries.

Have you heard of this happening recently to anyone you know?

Posted by NBC15 Madison on Saturday, November 14, 2020

Even viewers who had not heard from their hospital were worried. Hospital officials said every decision will be made on a case-by-case basis and patients will be contacted directly.

“Make sure to reinforce that patients are not wondering or worrying about the status of their surgery,” Nondorf said.

The message from officials is that this is not what they want, but until numbers go down, it is the only way to keep up.

“In the richest country on earth, we are talking about people not getting medical care they would otherwise need,” Pothof said, adding, “Sometimes it makes it hard to sleep because that’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

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