Ballad Health hospitals postponing all elective surgeries as COVID cases surge

An increase in COVID-19 cases in the Tri-Cities has prompted Ballad Health to postpone all elective and non-emergent surgeries, including already-scheduled procedures, effective August 26.

On Wednesday, the census of patients being treated as inpatients at Ballad Health for COVID-19 reached 281, with nine of those being children at Niswonger Children’s Hospital. The volume trends are exceeding what had been modeled as a most hopeful scenario, with the census growing nearly 29% since Friday, August 20. Based on current modeling, it is now likely that, without any changes to the trends, Ballad Health could be serving as many as 400 COVID-19 patients within two weeks.

Ballad Health is not furloughing team members at this time, but rather, may ask affected team members to provide support in various areas throughout the facility in which they work. This will enable Ballad Health to prioritize the most critical and highest-acuity patients.

The decision to postpone these procedures follows Ballad Health’s earlier announcement that it would defer elective procedures that required an overnight stay, which went into effect on August 16.

To determine which procedures are classified as non-emergent, Ballad Health will continue to follow the Elective Surgery Acuity Scale, which was developed by St. Louis University and is recommended by the American College of Surgeons as hospitals and health systems respond to challenges posed by COVID-19.

As examples, postponed procedures will include low-acuity surgeries for healthy and unhealthy patients, including, but not limited to, hernia repair, cholecystectomy, cardiac and interventional radiology procedures, aesthetic and plastic surgeries, podiatric procedures, vasectomies, bariatrics, joint replacements, screening endoscopies, and non-essential spine surgery.

In coordination with the respective chairs of the medical staff, and surgery and anesthesiology leaders, to seek input and assistance on this pause, Ballad Health will reevaluate this decision on an ongoing basis, with the goal of returning to full service as soon as possible. This decision will rely upon information about the spread of the COVID-19 virus and projected volumes, patient demand for urgent and emergent services requiring medical or surgical admission, and available staffing.

Effective today, visitation will not be permitted in rooms with COVID-19 positive patients, or in adult units in behavioral health centers.

Previously, the health system had permitted two visitors for each patient for a two-hour period, and it screened visitors for potential signs of illness.

Exceptions to this policy include patients positive for COVID-19 on a Ballad Health labor and delivery unit, who will be allowed one visitor during the entirety of the hospital stay. Patients who are positive for COVID-19 in the neonatal intensive care unit at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, and in pediatric rooms, will be allowed two visitors, but they must be parents/guardians.

Concessions for end-of-life and extenuating circumstances will be made on a case-by-case basis. Ballad Health will ensure the patient/family has been offered a virtual visit, through a daily video conference, to provide for interpersonal communication and connect the family to the patient. These limitations will remain in place until further notice. Ballad Health will issue communication when the restrictions are lifted or modified.