Elective surgeries stopped again amid surge of coronavirus cases

Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the suspension of all elective surgeries in Travis, Bexar, Harris and Dallas counties to offset the rapid increase in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Additionally, he ordered hospitals in the state’s 250 other counties to “postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately, medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition or to preserve the life of a patient” who would be at risk of death without it.

A joint statement on hospital capacity at Ascension Seton, Baylor Scott & White and St. David’s Health was released to area media Wednesday. The hospitals said that they “currently have the capacity to treat all patients,” including those with the coronavirus.

The combined capacity of the three hospital systems is 3,250 licensed beds but only 2,470 staffed beds. Licensed beds represent the number of beds the facility is licensed to operate, while the staffed beds are those “that are set up and ready for use, with the necessary staff in place to care for those patients”

The hospitals “have the ability to surge” to the number of licensed beds and, because all three are part of larger healthcare systems, the ability to reassign staff, PPE and other resources to meet that larger capacity.

“At this time, the three healthcare systems have 2,470 staffed beds collectively, and occupancy of those staffed beds is at 71 percent. Collectively, the three healthcare systems have 483 ICU beds and occupancy of those ICU beds is currently at 70 percent,” the statement said.

“However, if our hospitals reach a capacity where we cannot safely accommodate demand, while we will always make emergency care available, we may have to make changes, such as adjusting our staffing needs and limiting the services we are able to offer to patients. In some cases, we may transfer patients between facilities within our healthcare systems in order to provide the most appropriate care. We also support planning ahead to set up alternate care sites, and we are working with community leaders to plan for this potential need.

The best way to decrease the spread of COVID-19 is to adhere to the guidelines put in place by local health officials. It is in the best interest of everyone throughout Central Texas to wear a mask when around people who aren’t part of your household, practice good hand hygiene and engage in social distancing.

“However, if our hospitals reach a capacity where we cannot safely accommodate demand, while we will always make emergency care available, we may have to make changes, such as adjusting our staffing needs and limiting the services we are able to offer to patients,” it continued. “In some cases, we may transfer patients between facilities within our healthcare systems in order to provide the most appropriate care. We also support planning ahead to set up alternate care sites, and we are working with community leaders to plan for this potential need.”

The hospitals reminded people that “the best way to decrease the spread of COVID-19 is to adhere to the guidelines put in place by local health officials. It is in the best interest of everyone throughout Central Texas to wear a mask when around people who aren’t part of your household, practice good hand hygiene and engage in social distancing.”

As of Tuesday, June 30, 17 Hays County residents were hospitalized with the virus. A total of 62 had spent time in a hospital since the start of the pandemic. Seven county residents have died of the disease.

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