BayCare to pause some non-urgent surgeries to increase capacity for COVID-19 patients

On Friday, BayCare Health System announced it would be reducing the number of non-urgent surgeries performed at its Pinellas County hospitals to ensure capacity for a growing number of severely ill COVID-19 patients.

BayCare’s temporary policy takes effect Friday, July 10, at 5 p.m. at its four acute care hospitals in Pinellas County, which include St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Morton Plant and Mease Countryside hospitals in Clearwater, and Mease Dunedin Hospital. 

The temporary change in policy does not apply to BayCare’s hospitals in Hillsborough, Polk and Pasco counties, but would be adopted if those communities also face a lack of available hospital beds to care for COVID-19 patients. 

“These are never easy decisions to make, as so many people see their lives improve after a non-urgent procedure,” said Tommy Inzina, CEO of BayCare Health System. “But this is about making sure our community has the maximum resources at its disposal to address the second peak of this pandemic. We exist to serve our community, particularly during a health crisis.”

RELATED: Nearly 9,500 new Florida coronavirus cases reported Friday; 67 new deaths

Under the plan, all surgeries for life-threatening situations will continue to be performed. And unlike the state-mandated ban on elective surgeries earlier this year, BayCare’s effort will still allow many non-urgent surgeries and procedures to continue.

Generally, surgeries that could be deferred are those that are not medically urgent and require overnight recovery in the hospital.

RELATED: Bay Area hospitals see uptick in COVID-19 patients

“This policy will impact far fewer people’s health care than the previous ban this year on all non-urgent surgeries,” Inzina said. “This is really about one key resource that we need to be sure we have available and that is hospital beds for those battling COVID-19.”

According to BayCare, Pinellas County has seen available hospital bed capacity decline significantly in the past month due to rising COVID-19 cases. BayCare said it developed its plan in conjunction with HCA HealthCare, the county’s other major health care system. 

The largest hospital in Florida’s hardest-hit county for coronavirus cases also announced it is scaling back elective surgeries and other procedures because of a surge in the outbreak. Jackson Health System in Miami said in a statement that it would begin limiting non-emergency admissions beginning Monday because of "a steady increase” in the number of coronavirus patients over the past few weeks.

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