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'This Is A Public Health Issue': Minnesota Hospitals Postpone Nonessential Surgeries Amid COVID Surge

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota hospitals continue to be crunched for space. Hospitals are out of rooms and other health emergencies have been put on hold.

The latest map shows 81% of adult ICU beds across the state are full, with very few beds available at all.

A trip to the mailbox for Lori Jergensen on Dec.11 ended in a fresh pile of snow and a snapped ankle.

"Next thing I know I'm down. My right leg went out from under me and I ended up in a sitting position on the ground," Jergensen said.

A lateral break with fractures on both sides required surgery in 12 to 24 hours to minimize damage.

"The point is they need to do it quickly ahead of the swelling," Jergensen said.

But, she soon realized after her ambulance trip to Woodwinds Hospital in Woodbury that timeline wouldn't be possible.

As medical staff pointed out a large number of unvaccinated patients sick with COVID-19 awaiting care.

"As we're going through the garage entrance I'm looking around there's people everywhere," Jergensen said.

"I was like OK. This is it. This is what these stories are about," she said.

There wasn't a single bed available in the Twin Cities for surgery.

Instead, Jergensen went home in a wheelchair where she'll be until her surgery is scheduled for later next week.

An 18-day delay and facing the risk of permanent damage.

Jergensen's friend and neighbor JoAnn Bowman is a retired nurse.

"It isn't just Lori that's suffering but other people, too," Bowman said. "This is not a political issue. This is a public health issue."

She hopes what happened here shows the spider web the pandemic is weaving and the power she says some still have to stop it.

"I think people are choosing not to be vaccinated but not really thinking about what the repercussions are," Bowman said.

Jergensen said it's likely she'll be wearing a prosthetic shoe on her leg for the rest of her life.

There is also no transitional care available after her surgery, meaning her daughter will take care of her for a few days at her home after she recovers from surgery.

M Health Fairview Statement responded with this statement:

"Patient and staff safety is critical to everything we do as a health system. We are experiencing extremely high patient volumes, like every other system statewide, driven primarily by an increase in avoidable hospitalizations and emergency room visits as a direct result of COVID-19. The situation is critical. We need every Minnesotan to do their part to bring this pandemic to an end by wearing masks, avoiding large crowds, diligent hand washing, and getting a vaccination or booster."


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