Many hospitals continuing elective procedures as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise

The hospital response to the COVID-19 pandemic looks different today than it did three months ago, with many hospitals choosing not to forgo elective surgeries despite an increase in coronavirus patients, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In late March and April, hospitals nationwide cleared beds, stockpiled personal protective equipment and temporarily canceled nonemergent services, either voluntarily or under a government order, to ensure they could serve a surge in COVID-19 patients. For many hospitals, the surge did not materialize.

The approach is different this time around. While some hospitals in COVID-19 hot spots like California, Texas, Mississippi and Florida are canceling nonemergent procedures, most U.S. hospitals aren't, and there are few government orders or recommendations outside of Texas and Mississippi to do so. Instead, hospitals are taking on a local assessment of risk and making decisions at the community level rather than implementing systemwide policies. 

One reason hospitals are taking this approach is because they're more prepared for surges in COVID-19 hospitalizations than they were three months ago. They have better knowledge of how to treat the novel virus and more equipment to handle it, several state hospital officials told the Los Angeles Times. There's also a financial incentive. The American Hospital Association estimated that hospitals will lose $323.1 billion this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with losses largely reflecting significant declines in patient volume.

Still, challenges remain as the U.S. keeps setting daily records for new COVID-19 cases and in some states, record hospitalizations. Despite hospitals' best infection control efforts, a small portion of COVID-19 patients in the U.S. are contracting the virus inside healthcare facilities. Additionally, front-line workers are telling a different story of preparedness, with some reporting continued PPE shortages, a lack of testing capabilities and exposure to the virus. 


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