COVID-19 concerns prompt Methodist Hospital to cancel elective surgeries


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Health experts have talked for weeks about how COVID-19 surges are putting strains on hospitals across the world. Now, the pandemic is starting to affect other branches of medical care.

Methodist Hospital became the first Mid-South group to make changes in months, when health officials announced the hospital has cancelled elective surgeries for Monday and Tuesday. It’s something we haven’t seen since the spring.

But if cases and rates continue to rise, patients desperately seeking pain relief may get turned away.

Dr. Richard Aycock, a specialist at Methodist Hospital, said even before the pandemic, there is typically a surge this time of year.

“The Thanksgiving holiday frequently has its own surge, even prior to COVID,” Aycock said.

But combining seasonal issues with recent covid spikes, hospitals are running out of room.

“Primarily bed capacity in the hospital at all levels. ICU, step down and med surge,” Aycock said.

Methodist Hospital became the first Shelby County group to cancel elective surgeries, doing so for all appointments on Monday and Tuesday, since Tennessee was allowed to resume them in early May.

COVID hospitalizations have become so frequent, that emergency care is starting to suffer

“If you have to wait long periods of time to be seen in the ED, than we’re not able to care for the community in a way that we would like to,” Aycock said.

Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis isn’t shutting down elective surgeries yet, but doctors say it’s a daily discussion. They’ve tried to maintain flexibility, not turning many patients away, but trying to focus on operations with quick turnarounds.

“What we’re trying to do is stay away from elective procedures that require significant hospitalization time after them. So that frees up nurses, beds, resources, the whole deal,” Dr. Stephen Threlkeld, of Baptist Memorial, said.

Methodist has not yet decided to cancel elective surgeries, but they say they’re assessing it on a day-to-day basis.

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