As COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and hospital leaders are urging medical centers to postpone non-emergency surgeries to help keep beds clear for COVID patients.
Pritzker and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association announced a joint effort to try to prepare for what they call a “likely surge of post-holiday omicron COVID-19 cases,” and to help address potential shortages of staffed ICU beds in hospitals across the state.
“We are preparing for a post-holiday surge, and with hospital staff already working so hard, I appreciate the work hospital leadership is doing to assure capacity, including postponing non-emergency surgeries and procedures to ensure their ability to handle serious COVID cases and other emergencies without putting patients at risk,” Pritzker said in a statement.
The governor cited tonsillectomies, bariatric surgeries and hernia repair as examples of procedures that could be safely delayed amid the ongoing surges in COVID cases and hospitalizations.
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Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, revealed that more than 500 patients per day are being admitted to hospitals because of severe COVID cases.
“We want to make sure that there is a hospital bed available for anyone for any reason,” she said. “(Whether it’s) cancer complications, appendicitis, stroke, heart attack, car crash, or COVID-19.”
According to the latest IDPH data, there are currently 5,689 COVID patients in hospitals across the state, the most the state has seen in more than a year. Of those, 1,010 are currently in ICU beds.
Approximately 18% of the state’s hospital beds are open, and while 11% of ICU beds are available, the numbers of available ICU beds in several regions are dropping rapidly. In Region 1, located in northwest Illinois, just eight of 142 ICU beds are currently open. In region 7, comprised of Will and Kankakee counties, six of 133 ICU beds are currently open.
In addition to delaying non-emergency procedures, hospital leaders are also implementing other strategies, including stepping up telehealth visits, reallocating staff resources and working to expand ICU capacity.
Pritzker also extended state waivers to allow out-of-state health care employees to work in Illinois, and is encouraging all hospitals to implement new CDC guidance that accelerates return-to-work timeframes for asymptomatic COVID patients.