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COVID: Bay Area Hospitals Postpone Elective Surgeries Due To Surge, Sick Staff

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- Hospitals across California are postponing or waiting to schedule non-urgent elective surgeries amid the record-breaking surge of COVID-19 cases.

"We are actually actively reviewing every single patient who is scheduled for surgery," said Stanford Healthcare Assoc. Chief Medical Officer and Vice-President for Perioperative and Interventional Services Dr. Sam Wald. "We're triaging, meaning we're deciding some medical conditions are more urgent than others, doing it based on risk of cardiac disease or risk of cancer or debilitating pain things, like that. It really has to do with how many COVID patients are then filling up the hospital as beds become available."

UCSF Medical Center put a pause on scheduling new elective surgeries in anticipation of the surge, bringing elective surgeries 15% below normal, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Kaiser is also proactively adjusting its elective and non-urgent surgeries as needed.

The decisions come as the State Department of Public Health is considering issuing an order to postpone elective surgeries at hospitals across the state amid staffing issues caused by COVID-19.

At Arcadia's Methodist Hospital, 100 of its full-time staff are sick with the virus, which forced the medical center to cancel all of its elective, non-life threatening surgeries this week. Those include joint replacement surgeries and gallbladder procedures.

Meanwhile, healthcare workers are responding to the Department of Public Health's announcement that those who test positive for COVID-19 could continue to work in hospitals and clinics as long as they are asymptomatic.

"I been thinking maybe it's time to get out, because this is absolutely, absolutely ridiculous, this is asinine," said respiratory therapist Gisella Thomas. "Now you don't even know if the person you're working with is COVID positive and may be spreading."

In Santa Clara County, new COVID cases reached an all time-high with nearly 3,400 reported cases on Tuesday. Dr. Sara Cody told county supervisors that California models show the state reaching its peak of the surge at the end of the month or early February.

Dr. Wald said they'll continue reviewing their list of surgeries each week, and informing patients as far in advance as possible if their procedures will be postponed. He said each week is different depending on staffing, they number of COVID patients being treated and how many beds they are available.

"We want to make sure we have enough beds and enough staff to safely take care of everyone who needs us," Dr. Wald said.

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