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Cleveland Clinic Temporarily Pauses Non-Essential Surgeries Due To COVID-19

Updated: 4:20 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, 2020

As COVID-19 cases are soaring across Ohio and here in Cuyahoga County, Cleveland Clinic is postponing non-essential surgical procedures that require a hospital stay until Friday, Nov. 20 to free up beds and staffing for potential COVID-19 patients.

The health system initially paused surgeries for two days, but extended the postponement to a week on Friday, officials said. They will reevaluate surgical cases on an ongoing basis, a Clinic spokesperson said.

Pediatric patients and Lutheran Hospital will not be impacted, said Dr. Alice Kim, medical director of medical operations at Cleveland Clinic.  

Non-essential procedures are being postponed in order to preserve personnel, hospital beds and personal protective equipment (PPE) to prepare for the increasing number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, she said. 

“It’s going to be a daily re-evaluation, so it’s really looking to make sure that we are maintaining the hospital beds to, again, take care of these patients and also that we have the personnel to do that. So really just taking a proactive approach,” Kim said. 

Clinic officials will re-consider after the initial two-day period, and all postponed surgeries will be rescheduled for a later date, she said. 

Urgent and emergency surgeries, such as those for heart, cancer, and neurological cases, will continue, as well as outpatient procedures.

There are currently more than 350 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Cleveland Clinic’s hospitals, she said, with 76 of those patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). 

The health system still has the capacity to accommodate new patients, she said. 

University Hospitals, however, is not delaying any surgeries at this point, said Dr. Dan Simon, chief clinical and scientific officer.

UH officials will continue to monitor the situation, he said.

“We feel it’s extremely important, based on our lessons from the surges in April and May, not to defer non-COVID related healthcare … because we’re able to do both right now,” he said. “That could change, and the moment that it needs to change, we will pivot accordingly,” Simon said.

There are currently 173 COVID-19 patients in UH hospitals and 33 in the ICU, he said. 

MetroHealth is also not considering postponing any procedures at this time, according to a spokesperson.

This news from Cleveland Clinic was announced the same day Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced new rules to compel mask-wearing in Ohio. 

And he warned of more severe measures — such as another shutdown order for Ohio bars, restaurants, and gyms — if the coronavirus surge continues.

The governor also warned earlier this week that hospitals across the state are facing staffing shortages as frontline health care workers are getting sick and some are suffering from burnout.

In mid-March, elective surgeries and procedures in Ohio were halted under a statewide health order as part of the effort to keep health care staff and equipment available for coronavirus response; elective procedures resumed in late April, though doctors and patients were urged to consider both the health and virus-exposure risks involved.


Copyright 2021 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.

Anna joined ideastream in 2019, where she reports on health news for WCPN and WVIZ in Cleveland. She has also served as an associate producer for NewsDepth. Before that, Anna was a 2019 Carnegie-Knight News21 fellow at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.