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Carle delays non-emergency procedures amid record COVID-19 wave

Staffing issues have forced Carle Hospital to delay elective surgeries.

URBANA – As COVID-19 hospitalizations reach a pandemic high, Carle Health has decided to delay non-emergency procedures.

This time, Carle is not rationing supplies — but staff energy.

“As opposed to last year this time, we have most supplies needed but limited availability of our already stretched-thin staff to respond to the growing exposures and infections throughout the region,” says Carle Health public relations manager Brittany Simon.

Simon says Carle staff members have been rescheduling elective surgeries for the past several weeks. Some appointments will stay on schedule and will be transferred to outpatient staff to handle.

Elective procedures are ones that patients schedule with doctors a month or more in advance. They may be crucial for health but not as time sensitive, like a hip replacement.

OSF Heart of Mary Medical Center in Urbana has not made the choice to reschedule elective procedures yet, though officials say it’s an option on the table.

“COVID-19 has never been more widespread in many of the communities we serve than it is right now. If we face an expected post-holiday influx, we have a variety of options, including but not limited to delaying some non-emergency procedures,” says Heart of Mary Vice President Deborah McCarter.

Nearly 400 people are hospitalized with COVID throughout OSF’s 15 Illinois and Michigan hospitals. That’s the second highest wave after November 2020, when 445 people were hospitalized.

Hospital visitor policies have yet to change at either Carle or OSF’s Urbana hospital. Early in the pandemic, hospitals restricted visitors to minimize the spread of COVID.

Up to two people can still visit OSF patients, including those sick from COVID-19.

“We’re not restricting that as of right now, because we feel that patients’ families are very important to have when you’re recovering from an illness. To have them present at the bedside is important,” McCarter says.

The vast majority of COVID patients at both Carle and OSF hospitals are unvaccinated. As OSF, 88 percent of those hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated or due for another dose. At Carle, 70 percent are unvaccinated.

Vaccines and boosters are the best way to help out exhausted Carle hospital workers, according to Simon.

“We continue to look for ways to increase this support for our team members, but the best way to reduce the fatigue they are feeling is to get vaccinated and get a booster to stay well,” Simon says.

Emily Hays is a reporter for Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter @amihatt.

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Emily Hays

Emily Hays started at WILL in October 2021 after three-plus years in local newsrooms in Virginia and Connecticut. She has won state awards for her housing coverage at Charlottesville Tomorrow and her education reporting at the New Haven Independent. Emily graduated from Yale University where she majored in History and South Asian Studies.

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