TAMPA BAY, FL — HCA and AdventHealth hospitals are following on the heels of BayCare hospitals, announcing that they are suspending elective surgeries in west and central Florida as coronavirus cases increase.
Last week, BayCare Health System announced it will reduce the number of non-urgent surgeries performed at hospitals in Pasco, Hillsborough, Polk and Pinellas counties to ensure capacity for a growing number of severely ill coronavirus patients.
The change in policy is effective Thursday, July 16 at 5 p.m., and impacts all six of BayCare's Hillsborough hospitals: St. Joseph's, St. Joseph's Children's, St. Joseph's Women's in Tampa; St. Joseph's-North in Lutz; St. Joseph's-South in Riverview; and South Florida Baptist in Plant City.
It also applies to BayCare's three hospitals in Polk County including Winter Haven, Winter Haven Women's and Bartow Regional Medical Center; St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Mease Countryside Hospital in Safety Harbor and Mease Dunedin Hospital in Dunedin; and Morton Plant North Bay Hospital in Pasco County.
"We don't make the decision lightly as we know it will impact many of our patients who would prefer to have a non-urgent surgery sooner than later," said Tommy Inzina, CEO of BayCare Health System. "But this is about serving the public health and making sure our communities have the maximum resources to address the second peak of this pandemic."
Now, HCA and AventHealth hospitals are doing likewise.
“As positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Florida and here in our area, HCA Healthcare North Florida Division Orlando Market hospitals are taking a proactive action in order to position our hospitals to better serve the immediate health care needs of our community,” HCA said in a statement. “Beginning Thursday, July 16, the hospitals will temporarily defer the scheduling of elective surgeries as a measure to increase hospital bed capacity.”
HCA said the decision was made “to ensure our readiness as we monitor hospital capacity, which fluctuates daily, and the reported COVID-19 positive cases around the state.”
Blake Medical Center
Brandon Regional Hospital
Doctors Hospital of Sarasota
Englewood Community Hospital
Largo Medical Center
Medical Center of Trinity
Memorial Hospital of Tampa
Oak Hill Hospital
Palms of Pasadena
RMC Bayonet Point
South Bay Hospital
St. Petersburg General
Central Florida Regional Hospital
Osceola Regional Medical Center
Oviedo Medical Center
Poinciana Medical Center
Effective Friday, July 17, the following AdventHealth West Florida Division hospitals in the greater Tampa Bay area will pause the scheduling of any elective surgeries that require an overnight stay, as long as the procedure can be safely delayed with no risk to the patient:
AdventHealth Dade City
AdventHealth North Pinellas
AdventHealth Wesley Chapel
At this time, AdventHealth will continue to perform same-day surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay.
“The ability to care for our community in the safest way possible is our top priority,” said Mike Schultz, President and CEO of AdventHealth West Florida Division. “We will continue to closely monitor and evaluate the impact of COVID-19 in our facilities and put strategic processes in place that we are prepared to activate and implement to ensure we are keeping our patients, employees, physicians and community safe.”
He said AdventHealth has sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and specialized equipment available to quickly and safely convert existing spaces in the hospital, such as the Progressive Care Unit, to ICU/critical care rooms, if needed due to increased demand.
All three hospital groups will continue to perform surgeries for life-threatening situations.
"These are never easy decisions to make, as so many people see their lives improve after a non-urgent procedure," said Inzina. "But this is about making sure our community has the maximum resources at its disposal to address the second peak of this pandemic. We exist to serve our community, particularly during a health crisis."
He added that BayCare's decision won't apply to all non-urgent surgeries.
"This policy will impact far fewer people's health care than the previous ban this year on all non-urgent surgeries," Inzina said. "This is really about one key resource that we need to be sure we have available and that is hospital beds for those battling COVID-19."
Tampa Bay has experienced a decline in the availability of hospital beds due a rise in coronavirus cases during the past six weeks.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, health care systems across West Central Florida have been voluntarily working together to identify the best way to meet the needs of the communities they serve.
In the past month, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties have seen available hospital bed capacity decline significantly due to rising COVID-19 cases. A
More than 50 Florida hospitals are reporting they have no more intensive care beds available for coronavirus patients.
According to data released by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, there are no longer any ICU beds available at 54 hospitals in 25 counties. Another 30 hospitals reported their coronavirus ICU units are 90 percent full.
As of Monday, 46,046 of the 59,988 hospital beds in Florida set aside for coronavirus patients were occupied, according to the health care administration.
The counties with the most coronavirus patients were Miami-Dade (6,677 patients), Broward (4,500), Orange (3,298), Hillsborough (3,223), Palm Beach (2,902), Duval (2,783) and Pinellas (2,447).
Of the state's 6,144 intensive care beds available for coronavirus patients, the report says there is currently 19.34 percent capacity available.
Among the hospitals with no ICU beds available are Rockledge Regional Medical Center in Brevard County, Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Bay County, University Hospital and Medical Center in Broward County, Memorial of Tampa and South Bay hospitals in Hillsborough County, North Shore Medical Center and Coral Gables Hospital in Miami-Dade County, two AdventHealth hospitals in Pasco County, and Northside and Palms of Pasadena hospitals in Pinellas County.
During his news conference on Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said there's no need for alarm.
"We've got the census today. I think between 10 and 12 or 13 thousand – somewhere like that – beds are available," DeSantis said. "There'll be articles saying, 'Oh my gosh, they're at 90 percent.' Well, that's how hospitals normally run."
He characterized the rise in cases as a "blip."
"I know we've had a lot of different blips," DeSantis said. "We're now at a higher blip than where we were in May and the beginning of June."