Local hospitals to delay some non-urgent surgeries to increase bed capacity for COVID-19 patients

Posted at 1:25 PM, Jul 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-03 13:25:53-04

Some local healthcare systems are pausing certain non-urgent surgeries to increase the number of beds available for COVID-19 patients.

BayCare Health System and HCA Healthcare both announced the changes this week. The health systems worked together on their plans, according to BayCare.

Florida reported a record daily increase of cases on Thursday, with 10,109 new cases and 9,488 new cases reported on Friday.

According to a press release, starting on Monday, July 6, HCA will delay "certain deferrable inpatient surgeries and procedures" at Largo Medical Center, Northside Hospital, Palms of Pasadena Hospital and St. Petersburg General Hospital.

The change does not affect hospital-based outpatient surgeries or procedures, or those performed at HCA Healthcare Ambulatory Surgery Centers, the release says.

“Our hospital inpatient beds in Pinellas County are already reaching near capacity and with the number of COVID-19 positive community members growing exponentially, we are preparing now in supporting our caregivers efforts to provide safe, effective and efficient bedside care to an increasing number of sick patients,” explained Dr. Larry Feinman, Chief Medical Officer for HCA Healthcare West Florida. “We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary.”

According to the release, the hospitals are working with surgeons to identify appropriate patients for postponement of procedures that usually require a post-surgical inpatients stay. Patients will be contacted by their surgeon if their procedure is delayed.

“This is one of the ways we can quickly free up beds as we move forward with surge planning,” explained Feinman. “Our ERs remain open and safe, as we continue to prepare for an increase in sick patients and work with other healthcare providers to meet the needs of the communities we serve.”

BayCare said on Friday that the change would start July 10 at 5 p.m. at its Pinellas County hospitals. That includes St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Morton Plant and Mease Countryside hospitals in Clearwater, and Mease Dunedin Hospital.

The temporary policy does not apply to BayCare hospitals in Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco counties. But it could be adopted in those counties and if they also face a lack of hospital beds to care for COVID-19 patients, a press release said.

“These are never easy decisions to make, as so many people see their lives improve after a non-urgent procedure,” said Tommy Inzina, CEO of BayCare Health System. “But this is about making sure our community has the maximum resources at its disposal to address the second peak of this pandemic. We exist to serve our community, particularly during a health crisis.”

BayCare says all surgeries for life-threatening situations will continue and, unlike the state-mandate that banned elective surgeries earlier this year, BayCare will still allow many non-urgent surgeries and procedures to continue.

BayCare's Ambulatory Surgery Centers will continue to operate.

“This policy will impact far fewer people’s health care than the previous ban this year on all non-urgent surgeries,” Inzina said. “This is really about one key resource that we need to be sure we have available and that is hospital beds for those battling COVID-19.”

BayCare said in a release that Pinellas County has seen a significant decline in hospital bed capacity in the last month. According to the county's online dashboard, as of June 2 at 10:30 a.m. there were 14% of hospital beds available, 11.1% of ICU beds available and 75% of ventilators available.

There were 7,697 total positive COVID-19 cases in the county on Friday, according to the latest update from the Florida Department of Health. There have been 709 total hospitalizations and 183 deaths in the county.