Maryland hospital postponing some surgeries amid COVID-19 spike

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Anne Arundel Medical Center has started putting off some non-emergency, elective surgeries until COVID-19 admissions start to decline.

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COVID-19 patients are currently occupying about 10% of all the hospital beds at AAMC, and more than 70% of them are unvaccinated.

“This was a very difficult decision. This was a multi-disciplinary decision made over a period of time where we were watching our numbers,” said Dr. Stephen Selinger, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

Maryland hospitals haven’t taken such action since March 2020. The hospital cited September’s delta variant-fueled COVID-19 case surge and an increase in emergency room visits. It’s a combination that is straining capacity, Selinger said.

“In order to be able to accommodate those emergency patients, those patients with urgent and life-threatening needs who present to our emergency department, who need an inpatient bed, our only alternative is to restrict and delay some of these elective surgeries,” Selinger said.

Out of roughly 60 to 70 elective surgeries performed at AAMC each day, about half require post-operative, in-patient care. Officials estimate 10 non-emergency surgeries per day will be put on hold.

“Maximally, we’ll be delaying 10 surgeries per day. The reason we’re delaying these surgeries is because our emergency department volumes are such that we need the inpatient beds to take care of our community at large,” Selinger said.

Hospital officials said there are 38 COVID-19 in-patients — six of whom are in intensive care — that’s 10% of all hospital admissions. This comes amid increasing patient volumes in the ER hovering 4% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

“We’re not going to delay any surgeries where there would be a negative impact on a patient’s health,” Selinger said.

Patients who will have their surgeries postponed will get a call directly from the hospital. Officials want to stress that the hospital will not postpone any cancer surgeries, and they are evaluating this move on a day-to-day basis.

Other hospitals in the Baltimore area are not currently taking similar action. Johns Hopkins Medicine currently has no plans to change elective surgery schedules, according to a spokesperson.

Officials with MedStar Health and the University of Maryland Medical System told 11 News they’re not restricting non-emergency surgeries.

Leslie Simmons, executive vice president and chief operating officer of LifeBridge Health, which includes Sinai and Northwest hospitals, issued a statement, saying: “We have not had a need to stop or postpone elective surgery. At the present time, we have enough staffed capacity at all our hospitals.”

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