Kettering Health postpones elective procedures amid record COVID hospitalizations

Vaccine mandate passes without mass layoffs at Dayton hospitals

Kettering Health Network has postponed nonemergency, elective surgeries and procedures that require an overnight stay due to the strain of record high COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Dayton region. Premier Health, the area’s other major hospital network, is also rescheduling some procedures.

After setting a pandemic-record earlier in the week, hospitals in the west central Ohio region (Champaign, Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Shelby counties) reported 525 coronavirus patients hospitalized on Wednesday. That’s more than were hospitalized at any time during last winter’s peak.

The southwest region of the state (Adams, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, Highland and Warren counties), set a record Wednesday with 837 coronavirus patients hospitalized.

Statewide, nearly 6,500 coronavirus hospitalizations were reported Wednesday, setting a record for the seventh-consecutive day. They account for one-third of all Ohio hospitalizations with 1,324 in intensive-care units and 877 on ventilators.

Hospitals are struggling with a flood of coronavirus patients, as well as staff who catch the virus needing to stay home, Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association President Sarah Hackenbracht said. Ohio reported nearly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

“If it sounds like we’re ringing the alarm bells, we are,” Hackenbracht said. “We are at a very, very dangerous place as it relates to COVID-19 and its impact on normal medical care as we know it. When people hear the terminology elective procedures, everyone immediately assumes that these are things that are not medically necessary, when in fact, they are very much medically necessary procedures.”

That could include someone who is waiting on a hip or a knee replacement and is living with significant pain, she said, but that is not something that has to be taken care of in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Hackenbracht said this move to delay procedures has nothing to do with the deadline for Kettering and Premier employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Tuesday, which resulted in few terminations, if any.

“I don’t have specifics on whether or not any terminations actually happened Tuesday,” she said. “I think a number of organizations received a last-minute flurry of paperwork and documentation submissions. Hospitals are still working through that documentation but the overall compliance with the vaccine requirement has been incredibly high.”

Kettering Health announced elective procedures would be delayed effective Wednesday. Affected patients will be directly notified if their surgery or procedure is postponed. This comes after Reid Health and hospital networks in Columbus postponed elective procedures in December, and two networks in the Cincinnati area also did so this week.

“Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in our region and around the state have increased significantly, putting strain on multiple health systems,” said a Kettering Health statement. “In order to maintain safety and high-quality care, effective Jan. 5, Kettering Health is postponing non-emergent, elective surgeries and procedures that require an overnight stay.”

A spokesman for Premier Health said the hospital network is rescheduling some elective procedures.

“At this time, we are balancing schedules to maximize the care we can provide, including elective surgeries,” said Premier Health spokesman Ben Sutherly. “When appropriate, some procedures are being rescheduled to ensure this balance. We understand that just as COVID-19 is not letting up, neither are many other health care needs in the community.”

Last week, of the over 400 people hospitalized with COVID-19 at Premier Health and Kettering Health hospitals, 84% of patients were not vaccinated, according to the Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association.

“We continue to urge everyone that can be vaccinated to do so to protect yourself and everyone around you, and to help relieve the strain on hospital systems throughout our state,” said the Kettering Health statement.

About 60% of all Ohioans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Vaccination rates in area counties range between 39% in Darke County to 65% in Warren County.

Surgeries and procedures deemed necessary for the following reasons will still proceed at Kettering Health Network:

  • Threat to patient’s life or limb if the surgery or procedure is not performed.
  • Threat of permanent dysfunction of an extremity or organ system if the surgery or procedure is postponed.
  • Risk of metastasis or progression of staging if the surgery or procedure is postponed.
  • Risk of rapidly worsening to severe symptoms if postponed.
  • Other considerations that might be relevant in evaluating whether the surgery or procedure is essential.

Outpatient procedures that do not require an overnight stay as well as urgent and emergency procedures will also continue as scheduled.

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