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UW Medicine postponing some non-urgent procedures amid rising COVID cases

UW Medicine and other hospitals are starting to postpone non-urgent procedures to free up more space as coronavirus cases surge in Washington state.

SEATTLE — UW Medicine in Seattle is delaying some non-urgent procedures to free up more space in its hospitals for coronavirus patients. 

Hospital staff are identifying non-urgent surgeries that would require hospitalization and postponing them “unless it would cause medical harm to the patient,” said Susan Gregg, spokesperson for UW Medicine on Saturday. 

“We are implementing this process to increase our bed capacity and available personnel based on the current increase of COVID-19 cases in our region and increased hospitalizations,” Gregg said via email. 

UW Medicine isn’t the only hospital choosing to postpone certain procedures. 

During a briefing with state and local health officials earlier this week, Chief Operating Officer at Swedish First Hill, Dr. Elizabeth Wako, said her hospital is reducing elective surgeries to make room for more COVID-19 patients.

The latest data from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) reported 139,543 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, including 2,619 deaths as of Friday. There are currently 9,717 hospitalizations, according to the DOH. 

In King County, there are 2,914 hospitalizations, in Snohomish County there are 1,038 hospitalizations, and in Pierce County there are 1,185 hospitalizations, according to DOH data that was last updated Friday afternoon.

Hospitals in western Washington are preparing for what could be a surge in COVID-19 cases following the Thanksgiving holiday if people choose to ignore state and local warnings to not gather with people outside their household. 

A new national survey by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found nearly two in five people report they will likely attend a gathering with more than 10 people for Thanksgiving.

“If you gather with 15 people for Thanksgiving dinner, there will be an 18% chance that one of the individuals will be infected with COVID,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy during a briefing this week.

Deputy Secretary of Health Lacy Fehrenbach added, “There’s risk for further transmission. Those guests who become infected may go on to do other things the following week. They may go to a religious service. Another might work in a nursing home. A child who attended could go to school leading to outbreaks in these locations.”

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