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Tampa Bay hospitals buckle up for surge of Covid patients

Veronica Brezina

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Hospitalizations due to Covid-19 are on the uptick.

The number of Covid-19 cases is once again soaring throughout the state, creating an influx of changes for Tampa Bay hospitals that have long battled the ongoing pandemic. 

The uptick of cases is largely due to the Delta variant of Covid-19 spreading, and the high number of unvaccinated people. The Tampa Bay area hospitals are now revisiting adjustments to visitation policies and elective procedures in anticipation of more cases. 


Related: Delta variant spreads through Florida, concerning officials


Here’s what you should know: 

BayCare Health System 

The Clearwater-based BayCare Health System, which has multiple campuses throughout Tampa Bay, is preparing to reduce its elective procedures to make room for Covid patients. 

“With the increase of cases in the community, each of our facilities assesses their resources each day and, if needed, they will be rescheduling elective procedures to make sure we remain ready to serve the community’s urgent needs,” BayCare Health System spokeswoman Lisa Razler said in a prepared statement. 

“At this time, we anticipate at some point later this week, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa will curtail some elective procedures that require overnight stays to make sure we have the capacity for those with more acute needs,” she said. 

Elective procedures are typically a hospital’s main revenue stream. During the height of the pandemic, hospitals and health care centers were ordered by the state to cease elective procedures in an effort to reserve resources for Covid patients and curb the spread. 

The number of Covid patients in BayCare’s hospitals has recently more than doubled. The majority of the Covid-positive patients are unvaccinated. 

As a result, BayCare is restricting visitation to a single visitor per patient. 

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete is also seeing an increase in Covid patient numbers, largely from unvaccinated children. 

“The uptick in Covid-19 cases in our state is alarming and unfortunate, especially for many of our kids under 12 who are unable to get vaccinated. Our staff has been quite busy treating pediatric patients diagnosed with Covid-19, as we’ve seen one of the highest increases in Covid-19 cases in the past few weeks since the beginning of the pandemic. Although we are seeing an increase in overall cases, our hospitalization rate for Covid has remained the same,” Johns Hopkins All Children’s VP of Medical Affairs and CMO Dr. Joseph Perno said in a prepared statement. 

The St. Pete pediatric hospital has also made changes to its visitor policy; however, Johns Hopkins will continue to operate as normal and have elective procedures. 

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg 

Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, which was recently acquired by Orlando Health, echoed the same experience as the other health care organizations. 

“Over the past few weeks, Bayfront Health St. Petersburg has seen a steady climb in our inpatient Covid-19 counts. As of July 27, we report 24 in-house positive Covid patients, 10 of which are in the intensive care unit,” Senior Vice President & CMO Dr. George Ralls said in a prepared statement. 

“This rise is not unexpected and attributed primarily to the large number of individuals who have not been vaccinated. In fact, approximately 90% of our Covid-19 inpatients are unvaccinated,” he said. “Our team members and medical staff continue to handle this surge, not unlike a year ago at this same time, in a professional and exemplary way.” 

HCA West Florida division 

HCA, which operates several Tampa Bay hospitals including Largo Medical Center, St. Petersburg General, Northside Hospital in St. Pete and Palms of Pasadena, is not yet reducing its intake of elective procedures, an HCA West spokeswoman Deb McKell said. 

The system reported seeing an uptick of Covid cases, but the daily operations have not changed. 

AdventHealth 

Altamonte Springs-based AdventHealth, which has several Tampa Bay campuses, is also not planning to cease or cut down on elective procedures at this time. 

The health care system reported seeing an increase in Covid hospitalizations throughout West Florida, including Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, but fewer Covid cases compared to the peak in 2020.

More than 90% of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 across its nationwide system are unvaccinated.

“We have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and specialized equipment available to quickly and safely convert existing spaces in the hospital into standard patient rooms or ICU/critical care rooms, should they be needed due to increased demand,” AdventHealth said in an email. 

At this time, there are no changes to the visitor policy. 

People should visit health care organizations’ websites and social media accounts for the latest on visitation policies and any other changes to hospital operations. 

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