Dignity, Valleywise, Honor healthcare systems postpone non-urgent surgeries amid COVID surge

The steady increase of COVID-19 cases in Arizona, and COVID patients needing hospitalizations, continues to strain Phoenix-area hospitals.

Several hospital networks are now making changes because bed usage is at capacity.

Dignity Health, Valleywise Health and Honor Health confirmed on Dec. 13 that they have been making day-to-day decisions to postpone non-urgent surgeries because there are just not enough beds at the hospitals currently.

Hospital officials say the state is currently at the same capacity crunch as it was a year ago.

"The demand is exceeding the capacity right now. We’re seeing our normal everyday health care needs and the additional COVID strain on top of that," explained Dr. Michael White with Valleywise Health.

At Valleywise, both COVID and non-COVID patients are waiting 23 hours or more for beds in the hospital and ICU to open up.

"This morning we continue to see COVID-19 positive patients," White said. "We were holding six patients in our emergency department because our usual beds in our COVID units were at capacity."

Several of the Valley’s largest hospital systems have been putting off certain elective surgeries for the past few weeks now.

"Orthopedic surgeries, total joint replacements, those types of surgeries have been deferred. Anything that can wait 4-6 weeks without having marked significant effect on the patient," White said.

Some good news, pediatric unit beds are not experiencing the same capacity crunch. However, doctors at Phoenix Children’s Hospital say they are seeing an uptick in the number of kids with the rare and potentially deadly COVID-19 symptom, MIS-C.

"The numbers of new MIS-C patients coming to the hospital has been steady. We’ve been on a steady number of new cases every week," said Dr. Wassim Ballan, a Phoenix Children’s Hospital infectious diseases specialist. "Majority of cases happen with the median age of eight. Anyone who’s around eight years of age is of high risk of developing this reaction."

At Valleywise, more than 95% of COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated. At Phoenix Children’s Hospital, 100% of the kids admitted with COVID-19 symptoms are not vaccinated.

FEMA asked to help Arizona hospitals amid surge, staffing shortages

Some hospitals across the state are asking for federal help to get things under control.

A year ago, Arizona had set up its first COVID-19 vaccine sites. But this year, hospitals are still feeling the strain from the virus.

95% of all ICU and inpatient beds in hospitals across Arizona were in use as of Dec. 16. Some hospitals are asking for federal help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Valleywise Health is one of them

"It’s an hour-by-hour situation with capacity and bed management," White says.

He says the hospital system could use FEMA staff to administer monoclonal antibodies, a potentially life-saving treatment used for COVID019 positive patients, outside an emergency setting.

"We’re at a volume of patients within the hospitals that we haven’t seen in many, many years. It’s a combination of patients with their routine healthcare needs, with the additional patients we have for COVID-19, which is keeping the capacity very high," White explained.

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s office told FOX 10 they believe help could arrive by the end of 2021.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said about the situation on Dec. 17," This isn’t our first wave. I think people know what to do, they know what the answer is. I hope people will get the vaccine, consider the vaccine, and if they’re in doubt, they talk to their family physician. 

MORE: Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

MORE: Find COVID-19 vaccine locations in your area

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

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