Florida hospitals begin postponing elective surgeries as another record set for COVID-19 daily admissions

Some Florida hospitals and health systems, including Health First in Rockledge, Baptist Health in Jacksonville, BayCare Health System in Clearwater and Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, postponed or limited non-emergency surgeries earlier this month as COVID-19 admissions rose, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

The UF Health Jacksonville hospital also has canceled elective surgeries after the number of COVID-19 patients at its hospital increased to record admission levels. In addition, AdventHealth Wesley Chapel, part of Altamonte Springs-based AdventHealth, also announced it will temporarily postpone some elective procedures.

On Wednesday, during a virtual roundtable of hospital CEOs led by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Orlando Health CEO David Strong said he is optimistic that the current wave will taper off soon. Strong said his health system has had about 500 COVID patients for the last few days.

“If you look at the models in UK and Netherlands, the peak went up rapidly and fell very quickly. We are hoping the same thing occurs here,” Strong said.

Jackson CEO Carlos Migoya said South Florida hospitals continue to see patients stream into their emergency departments. “The spike is strong, the last few days it moved up. We are four weeks in,” he said. “Last summer’s surge lasted six weeks to the peak. We are saying one to three weeks more, but who knows? We are preparing for the worst.”

Justin Senior, chief executive officer for the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, said all Florida hospitals are cautiously watching their capacity, unsure of how much higher admissions will go. “Suspending elective surgeries frees up a lot of capacity and helps to make sure staff does not get overtaxed,” he said.

Senior said elective procedures likely would be postponed only for about four to eight weeks.

Hospital leaders told DeSantis a big challenge is having enough staff to care for sick patients, a factor playing a role in the suspension of elective surgeries. Some health systems noted during the round table that they already have brought in temporary nurses through staffing agencies.

Juana Meija, nurse manager of the ICU at Memorial Hospital Miramar, has been working seven days a week.

“It has been stressful and exhausting, physically and mentally,” she said “I have been a nurse for over 30 years and I have never experienced anything at this magnitude.”

During the round table Wednesday, Simone Marstiller, Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, the state agency responsible for licensing health care facilities and sharing of health care data, said if any health system needs to expand outside the area in which they have licensed beds “you all have the flexibility to do that.” Some South Florida hospitals already have been converting auditoriums and conference rooms into COVID wards or patient care spaces.

As COVID hospitalizations climb in South Florida, local health care systems already have tightened rules on who can come into their hospitals — restricting visitors as well as requiring masks and social distancing. Memorial Healthcare System will allow only fully vaccinated visitors during designated hours into its five hospitals.

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