TidalHealth Peninsula Regional and the surgeons practicing there have placed a temporary pause in elective, non-emergency surgeries that require an overnight stay.
For at least a two-week period that began Monday, all non-emergency, non-life-threatening surgeries requiring an overnight stay will be evaluated by a multidisciplinary clinical team and those that can be postponed will be.
Patients affected by the pause are being notified ahead of time by their surgeon’s office.
Several factors have combined recently to put stress on hospital staffing levels and hospital bed capacity at both TidalHealth hospitals in Salisbury and Seaford.
“TidalHealth has a set of criteria that examines physical bed capacity, unit based staffing, critical care bed saturation and the overall percentage of Covid-positive patients based on our total admissions,” said Sarah Arnett, Chief Nursing Officer at TidalHealth.
“The trigger point to discuss reduction in elective procedures is when we have exceeded our defined thresholds in three or more criteria for several days, which we have,” she said.
In addition to the Delta variant surge, TidalHealth and hospitals across the nation are experiencing a significant shortage of nurses. A number have decided to leave the profession over the past several months for a variety of reasons, and while TidalHealth is taking action to support appropriate nursing levels today, it is working with local nursing schools to increase the supply of newly trained nurses for the future.
“Patients who are ill with Covid are contributing to put stress and significant demand on the limited resources of the Emergency Department, hospital floors and the ICU, and the vast majority who are getting sick enough with Covid to require hospitalization are unvaccinated,” said Dr. Mark Edney, President of the Medical Staff at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional.
“The subject of Covid vaccination has unfortunately become politicized,” Edney said, “but there are some truths based on available community data and on current medical science that are indisputable.”
Edney points to the safety of the vaccine. Hundreds of millions of doses have been delivered worldwide with only a very small number of adverse reactions, which is witnessed with any vaccine deployment.
Further, there remains a reluctance in the region to receive the vaccination, with Wicomico County only at a 45 percent compliance rate.
Edney said he believes widespread misinformation and unfounded concerns not supported by the evidence are key reasons for the low vaccination rates.
“What clearly is happening, however, is that unvaccinated people are getting Covid at an unprecedented rate, they are getting sick and are requiring hospitalization,” said Dr. Steve Leonard, TidalHealth President and CEO.
“This preventable stress on our already stressed health care system contributes to delays in care across the board,” he said.
“These delays affect those seeking care in the emergency room for a variety of non-Covid emergencies, and with the pausing of elective procedures requiring a hospital overnight stay, now new delays for our friends and neighbors who need surgery,” Leonard said.
Health care teams are reacting heroically to the challenges, but there is something that everyone in the region can do immediately to assist them, Edney said.
“If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated, and if you are, encourage an unvaccinated friend, family member or loved one to get vaccinated,” he said. “It is the most community-minded thing anyone can do right now.”
TidalHealth officials will continuously evaluate the current staffing and capacity issues so that this suspension of elective procedures and surgeries requiring an overnight stay can be lifted as soon as it’s safe.