Hospitals in Pinellas County are putting some non-urgent medical procedures on hold as they prepare to treat more COVID-19 patients.
Both BayCare Health System and HCA Healthcare West Florida announced plans to delay some elective procedures at their Pinellas County hospitals, as the county recorded its second-largest one-day increase to date in the number of newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases. There were 448 new cases reported Friday morning and three additional deaths, with 12.4 percent of the latest test results being positive for the virus.
Hospitals statewide had halted elected surgeries for about a month earlier this year, as part of a broader plan to slow the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging people to stay at home and limiting operations at many businesses. Since the state lifted that order in early May, the number of cases has increased at what some public health officials have described as an alarming rate.
Pinellas County has seen available hospital bed capacity decline significantly in the past month due to rising COVID-19 cases.
BayCare’s newly announced temporary halt on some surgeries is different than the statewide ban earlier this year, Tommy Inzina, Baycare CEO, said in a news release.
Under the newly announced plan, Baycare said it would reduce the number of non-urgent surgeries performed in its four Pinellas County acute-care hospitals — St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Morton Plant and Mease Countryside hospitals in Clearwater, and Mease Dunedin Hospital. The temporary policy will begin at 5 p.m. Friday, July 10.
Generally, surgeries that could be deferred are those that are not medically urgent and require overnight recovery in the hospital. All surgeries for life-threatening situations will continue to be performed, as will some non-urgent surgeries and procedures, and BayCare’s ambulatory surgery centers, which specialize in outpatient surgery, will continue to operate.
“These are never easy decisions to make, as so many people see their lives improve after a non-urgent procedure,” Inzina said. “But this is about making sure our community has the maximum resources at its disposal to address the second peak of this pandemic. We exist to serve our community, particularly during a health crisis.”
BayCare and HCA are the two leading health systems in Pinellas County and worked together to develop plans, BayCare said.
HCA said its four Pinellas County hospitals — St. Petersburg General Hospital, Northside Hospital, Palms of Pasadena Hospital and Largo Medical Center — will delay some elective procedures to reduce inpatient bed capacity pressures, effective Monday, July 6.
Inpatient hospital beds at HCA hospitals in Pinellas County are reaching near capacity, Dr. Larry Feinman, chief medical officer for HCA Healthcare West Florida, said in a news release from HCA Health West Florida.
“With the number of COVID-19 positive community members growing exponentially, we are preparing now in supporting our caregivers’ efforts to provide safe, effective and efficient bedside care to an increasing number of sick patients,” Feinman said. “This is one of the ways we can quickly free up beds as we move forward with surge planning.”
The HCA hospitals are working with surgeons to identify patients whose procedures can be postponed. Affected patients will be contacted by their surgeons.The change does not affect hospital-based outpatient surgeries or procedures, or those performed at HCA Healthcare Ambulatory Surgery Centers. HCA hospital emergency rooms remain open.
HCA will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed, Feinman said.
BayCare said its policy does not apply to its hospitals in Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco counties, but would be adopted if beds to care for COVID-19 patients get tight in those communities.
COVID-19 stats (as of 11 a.m. July 3)
- Total new cases reported July 3: 448
- Total cases to date: 7,697
- New deaths reported July 3: 3
- Total deaths to date: 183
- Seven-day average new cases: 371
- Seven-day average positive test rate: 12.3%
- Total new cases reported: July 3: 9,488
- Total cases to date: 178,594
- New deaths reported July 3: 67
- Total deaths to date: 3,785