Washington hospital delays surgeries; COVID-19 not to blame

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center rescheduled surgeries May 11-12 after experiencing "unprecedented patient volume" in its emergency department, the Bellingham, Wash.-based hospital's CMO said in a statement shared with Becker's. As of May 13, all the capacity issues were resolved, a spokesperson told Becker's.

The "critical patient capacity" issues, first reported by The Bellingham Herald after an internal email about the constraints was posted to Reddit May 11, were not primarily due to COVID-19, but rather emergency, postpartum and pediatric patients.

While COVID-19 wasn't the driving force behind the influx of patients at St. Joseph, the state of Washington is seeing a fourth wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to NPR, with hospitalizations rising quickly among younger patients.

The unprecedented volume at St. Joseph's ED affected the rest of operations at the 253-bed hospital, Sudhakar Karlapudi, MD, CMO for PeaceHealth's Northwest network, said in the statement. For 48 hours starting May 11, all nonemergent surgeries and procedures were rescheduled to ensure patient safety and to conserve resources.

"Other than identifying that these patients are sick enough to require hospital care, with the exception of laboring moms, there doesn't seem to be any commonality among the patients," Dr. Karlapudi said at the time, adding that the hospital did still have capacity in its COVID-19 units. However, those isolated beds couldn't be easily transitioned into non-COVID-19 beds, he said.

Even with those COVID-19 beds, the hospital would still have been considerably over its normal capacity, Dr. Karlapudi said. 

Editor's note: This article was updated May 13 to reflect that the capacity issues have been resolved. 

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