Northwestern Medicine says it has reduced non-emergency procedures as it grapples with an increase in coronavirus patients amid the surge in cases and hospitalizations occurring in Illinois and nationwide.
"Northwestern Medicine has reduced non-emergent surgery and procedures that require an inpatient stay to preserve bed availability, staffing and resources as we continue to care for an increasing number of COVID positive patients," a spokeswoman for the health care system said in a statement.
"All of our facilities remain open and are a safe place to provide and receive care, the statement continued, adding, "We encourage patients to continue to coordinate their medical care with their Northwestern Medicine providers."
Northwestern Medicine operates multiple facilities across the Chicago area, including Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. It was not immediately clear which locations were most impacted by the reduction in procedures.
Northwestern's move to limit non-emergency procedures comes as Illinois and states around the country face record numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
Illinois health officials reported 8,922 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases on Wednesday, lifting the statewide total to more than 600,000 cases since the pandemic began, and 140 additional deaths.
The state also saw its hospitalization numbers increase again Wednesday, with 5,953 residents in hospitals due to coronavirus-like illnesses, an increase of more than 100 patients in the previous 24 hours. Of those patients, 1,146 were in intensive care units, and 547 were on ventilators.
Another suburban hospital said Wednesday it was running out of beds and had to cancel surgeries amid a surge in patients seeking treatment for the coronavirus.
According to officials at Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers in Grundy County, the hospital network has seen a 400% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since the beginning of November, with nearly 40 patients currently hospitalized due to the illness as of Tuesday.
The hospital has beds for 80 patients, according to officials.
“Half of our inpatients have COVID-19,” Mark Steadham, President and CEO of the hospital, said. “Our ICU beds and intermediate care beds are all full. We are seeing the surge that many predicted would overwhelm our hospitals. It’s here and it’s actually happening in Morris.”
Steadham says that at least five patients were holding in the hospital’s emergency department because the hospital doesn’t have the proper bed placement to allow them admittance.
According to officials, the hospital was forced to postpone multiple surgeries this week, saying that those procedures that require overnight stays have to be delayed because of the bed shortage.
“It’s the reverse of last spring,” he said. “It’s the surgeries requiring inpatient care that are being affected. It’s a horrible situation for patients, and it’s something we’re going to have to evaluate on a day-to-day basis until the situation turns around.”
In addition to the hospital bed shortage, the hospital is also seeing critical shortages of coronavirus tests. According to officials, the testing capabilities at the hospital have significantly diminished due to supply shortages, and their remaining supply of rapid tests are being reserved for admitted patients at the hospital.
Steadham and hospital officials are asking the communities that Morris Hospital serves to take the spread of the virus seriously, saying that social gatherings and community events are still occurring even with new restrictions being imposed by the state.
“This isn’t about politics or not being afraid to contract the virus,” he said. “It isn’t about the high recovery rate for the majority of people. It’s about a public health crisis that’s starting to limit our ability to provide medical services to everyone who needs it.”
Steadham said that the coronavirus surge is not only impacting those seeking care for that illness, but could also impact those suffering from medical emergencies, including heart attacks, appendicitis, strokes, cancer diagnoses and other illnesses.
“We need your cooperation now,” he said. “Please, for your neighbors, friends and for your family, do what has been asked of all of us over the next few weeks: stay at home as much as you can, avoid gatherings, wear your mask when you have to go out, keep your distance and sanitize your hands.”