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Elective procedures might still happen at some area hospitals

HOUSTON – Some hospitals in Harris County are continuing business as usual despite an order from the governor’s office Thursday to halt elective procedures.

In part, the order states for every hospital in Harris County (and several other counties) to:

“Postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary. This prohibition shall not apply to any surgery or procedure that, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete any hospital capacity needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.”

The order was intended to help free up space in hospitals where ICU beds are needed as coronavirus cases rise. We found out some hospitals, who say they have plenty of capacity, have chosen to continue with elective procedures because they say they’re NOT taking away from COVID resources.

The Texas Hospital Association basically says, determining whether a hospital has the capacity to continue elective procedures is up to the individual hospital.

If you had an elective procedure scheduled, you need to check if it’s still going to be allowed. Different hospitals and clinics may have different rules right now. As of right now, the order does not have an end date.

We contacted all area hospitals for a statement regarding elective procedures.

Statement from Methodist Hospital:

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring hospitals in several counties, including Harris, to postpone surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary to diagnose or correct a serious medical issue that could lead to a patient’s death.

The order, which goes into effect Friday at midnight, was issued to ensure that hospitals in Harris County continue to have the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. It allows us to also do surgeries and procedures that will not deplete our capacity to care for COVID-19 patients.

Currently, we have enough capacity in all our hospitals as we have planned for this and are ready to provide the care our community needs in the wake of this pandemic. We understand that the governor is trying everything he can to fight this terrible virus and we will continue to work with him and local officials to care for our community.

Statement from Texas Children’s Hospital:

We are confident in our ability to manage the current trend. We are continuously assessing our capacity and managing our staffing plan accordingly. We have the ability to expand our capacity, open more available beds, and increase our staffing to care for the patients in need. If the number of COVID-19 patients continues to increase, so will our capacity. As part of a multi-hospital health system across the Houston region, we are able to care for patients across our systems. All of us agree the priority is to limit the spread of the virus, support our community, and keep our caregivers safe and healthy.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our industry, local economy, and on each of our organizations. It’s too soon to say how this new order specifically will impact us financially. We understand that the governor is trying everything he can to fight this terrible virus and we will continue to work with him and local officials to care for our community.

Statement from St. Luke’s Health:

In order to ensure that our facilities remain safe and able to provide the care and services our communities need, we have been closely monitoring our capacity and resources so that we’re prepared to care for all patients in need of healthcare services in our community.   

According to the recent order issued by Gov. Abbott, surgeries and procedures are allowed as long as they do not deplete any hospital capacity needed to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many elective procedures are done in an outpatient setting, meaning they do not require admission to an inpatient bed. That means that caring for these patients does not impact a hospital’s capacity to care for COVID-19 patients. Additionally, we will continue to perform emergent surgeries and procedures for patients whose conditions change and require intervention.

The current capacity projections and concerns are not dissimilar to non-pandemic moments in Houston. We typically face moments with capacity at or above the current levels. Unlike those moments, we’ve taken distinctive and specific steps that focus on the challenges of COVID-19.

We are confident in our ability to manage the current trend, and we continue to have capacity, despite reports to the contrary. We’ve learned a lot about COVID-19 in the past months, including adopting new safety and isolation protocols that are contributing to helping to limit the spread.

Because it can be difficult to predict who will need care in our facilities on any given day, our staffing models already require a certain level of flexibility. This flexibility will continue to be required throughout the COVID-19 public-health crisis.

This is a fluid situation and we are adjusting as needed to care for all of our patients providing the right care at the right time while maintaining our capacity to care for COVID-19 patients.   

We will post other hospital responses as we get them.