YOLO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) — Local hospitals are having to decide whether to suspend or postpone elective surgeries as staffing challenges arise due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Pushing back non-emergency operations can free up staff and keep attention to those who need care immediately, but those delays could lead to long-term health consequences.
Doctors say knee replacements and some cosmetic procedures, those that are scheduled ahead, can wait until hospital space can be improved.
But serious infections or other urgent medical problems that could worsen quickly might have to be treated right away. That is why hospital teams are looking at patients on a case-by-case basis to decide priorities.
They say some people should be ready if their elective surgery gets postponed.
“So one thing that is part of every hospital search plan is at some point, canceling elective surgeries,” Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said.
Health officials across the region are having to decide every day which scheduled surgeries to cancel or continue. People who are experiencing serious medical problems including severe COVID symptoms should still call 911 or go to the hospital on their own.
But health professionals are left to make the call about procedures for less serious illnesses or conditions.
“Like most other hospitals, if not all other hospitals in this region, Mercy General is looking at all of our cases, and we have postponed some of our elective cases that can wait,” Dr. Brian Evans said.
Kaiser Permanente says it is making adjustments to maintain care, including employing traveling nurses, adjusting elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures as needed, and offering telehealth capabilities.
UC Davis Health officials say they are not canceling surgeries but postponing a very small number to ensure they have sufficient staffing. Some county health officials say while waiting might be necessary, it could have serious effects later.
“One of the things that we’ve seen during COVID is that people have delayed necessary care and that leads to bad outcomes down the road,” Sisson said.
Sisson says right now Yolo County hospitals do have availability but expect to see more patients in beds in the coming days.
“While they may be OK today, a week or two from now it may be a very different situation with the hospitals not having beds available,” Sisson said.
Doctors do want to make it clear, however, that people who are suffering chest and abdominal pain, stroke symptoms or other serious issues should go right away to get checked out —do not delay.