Hospitals are closing ORs on a daily basis, even without a COVID-19 surge

Hospitals are still experiencing disruptions to their operating room capacity, with temporary but regular OR closures prompted by staff absences and more complex cases. 

The Boston Globe reported July 26 that some of the largest health systems in Massachusetts have had to temporarily close their ORs on and off for months. 

"Across the healthcare system, closing ORs is a near daily event," Eric Dickson, MD, CEO of Worcester, Mass.-based UMass Memorial Health, told the Globe. "Some procedural area or OR is not open, and we've had to adjust cases because of our ability to staff."

UMass Memorial Health has approximately 2,000 vacant jobs, including 500 for nurses, and several dozen employees continue to call in sick daily with COVID-19. Dr. Dickson said the OR closures continue to hamper the system's revenue, which has not fully recovered from the state-mandated suspension of elective procedures during the omicron surge in late December and January. Those pauses contributed to a $41.4 million operating loss in the quarter ended in March. 

Mass General Brigham has temporarily closed a few ORs at a time in what system COO Ron Walls, MD, calls "a weekly occurrence, in many cases a daily occurrence," the Globe reports. Worker absenteeism is compounded by complex surgical cases, in which procedures for particularly sick patients require specialists or larger teams. About one-third of inpatient/outpatient hospital revenue at Mass General Brigham is linked to cases that use ORs.

"The overall ability of acute care hospitals to operate now and meet their payroll and meet their margin, or even break even, is really, really challenged," Dr. Walls said.

Read The Boston Globe report in full here.

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