UNC Hospitals delay some non-emergency surgeries, procedures; COVID-related hospitalizations still high

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Some hospitals in the Triangle are postponing non-emergency surgeries and procedures, as they continue to fill up with coronavirus-related cases.

According to the North Carolina Health and Human Services Department, 3,756 COVID-19 patients were in North Carolina hospitals as of Thursday. That is an increase of more than 1,500 in a month’s time.

Dr. Christopher Kelly, a cardiologist at UNC Rex hospital, wants to remind everyone that COVID-19 doesn’t just impact people with the virus.

“The resources of the American health care system, unfortunately, are finite, and we are brushing up against those limits right now,” he said. “It really is a threat to anyone who experiences any health problem.”

“Most hospitals are around 80 percent or 90 percent full to begin with,” he said. “When you fill 10 percent to 20 percent of the beds with COVID patients, the hospital can be full all the time. This is a ripple effect that people don’t fully understand.”

That means some hospitals may not be able to care for as many people who have other health emergencies.

“Right now, most Triangle top hospitals, including mine, are really not taking many transfer patients and that’s because we just don’t have beds for them,” he explained.

Even if hospitals have enough beds, some hospitals across the country don’t have enough staff. It’s a problem he fears will only get worse as the pandemic stretches on.

“Everyone – including people who don’t think they are going to get COVID, people who aren’t afraid of complications from COVID, people who have had COVID already – remain affected by this epidemic because it is affecting every health care system in this country,” Kelly said.

According to a spokesperson for UNC, both UNC Rex and UNC Medical Center are postponing some non-emergency surgeries and procedures, and most hospitals in the UNC Health System are taking similar steps.

“There’s nothing that isn’t affected by this,” said Kelly, speaking of the pandemic. “We all should remain committed to ending this thing as quickly as possible.”

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