Go Back

COVID Admissions impact on elective procedures at Salem Hospital

17 Aug 2021

By: Matt Boles, MD, Vice President of Medical Affairs

As the COVID delta variant spreads in our community, coupled with a significant proportion of our population who remain unvaccinated, we have seen a recent surge in COVID admissions over the last several days. Some hospitals in Oregon have announced they will cancel elective procedures for the foreseeable future. At Salem Hospital, we are closely monitoring the situation, analyzing the impact of scheduled surgeries on bed capacity and staffing daily. Early in the pandemic, Incident Command worked to develop, maintain, and monitor triggers to determine when we would limit or pause scheduled procedures. Our surgical services team has done an excellent job advancing this work into a predictive tool that keeps quality and safety at the forefront.

In addition to bed capacity and staffing, we also carefully consider our patients as we make these decisions. As you know, the phrase “elective” is a bit of a misnomer. When we say a procedure is “elective,” that really means “scheduled.” For example, scheduled procedures include colonoscopies, breast biopsies and joint replacements for patients who are in severe pain. Many of these are scheduled as outpatient procedures or for an inpatient stay of less than 48 hours. Some of these patients have been delaying care throughout the pandemic, contributing to the high census we have been experiencing for the last several months.  We also believe that when patients hear that elective surgeries are canceled, it may lead to reluctance to seek other medically necessary care, out of fear or concern for safety. This continues the cycle of deferred care in which we find ourselves and is not the best care for our patients.

As unpredictable as this virus has proven to be, the situation is very fluid and we will continue to monitor the situation daily. We are working to balance scheduling in the coming days and may delay or cancel procedures if necessary, keeping what is best for the patient in mind. We’ve refined a communication process to keep those impacted informed. We want to thank our providers and staff for their continued dedication to the safety of our patients.