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U Health postponing some surgeries to make room for COVID-19 patients

Steven Jensen (right) gives group from the University's Financial department a tour of the Intergated Operating room at the grand opening of the new state-of-the-art Orthopaedic Center at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City Utah . 10/4/04 Photo: Michael Brandy. (Submission date: 10/04/2004)

SALT LAKE CITY — Univerisity of Utah Healthcare (U Health) is temporarily postponing some elective surgical procedures due to the recent influx of COVID-19 patients, according to doctors with the healthcare network. 

“U Health is extremely busy. We have double to triple the number of COVID cases in our hospital than we have had in the past one to three weeks. We have the same amount of COVID patients in our hospital that we had back in July of 2020,” said Associate Chief Medical Officer for Inpatient Services Dr. Kencee Graves. 

U Health postponing medical procedures 

The increase in cases, Dr. Graves says, is why they have postponed some surgical cases in order to free up beds for patients with the virus. 

“About half of my medical intensive care unit beds are full of patients that have COVID-19. The majority of those are unvaccinated,” Dr. Graves said. 

Complicating matters further, she notes the hundreds of vacant healthcare jobs across the state make their ability to treat patients even more challenging. 

“What we were able to do last fall to stretch our capacity, and open surge ICUs, and take care of extra patients, we do not have that option anymore,” Dr. Graves said. 

However, the halt on some elective surgeries is temporary. 

“We have postponed a small percentage of our cases that can be safely delayed to be rescheduled when this surge starts to drop,” explained Dr. Graves.  

Will the surge drop? 

As we learned last year, COVID-19 infection symptoms can lag infection by as much as two weeks. The same goes for hospitalizations after infection. 

“We know that hospitalizations follow positive tests by a number of days,” Dr. Graves mentioned. “Personally, I’m very alarmed by our case count today, and I hope this does not become our 7-day average. We need to manage this virus in our communities so that we can safely take care of patients who need us for other things.” 

On Wednesday, the Utah Department of Health reported 873 new cases of COVID-19, the highest daily case count since February 25. Hospitalizations are also jumping. Currently, 78.2% of the state’s intensive care units are occupied. 

Dr. Graves says it’s crucial for those putting off the vaccine to take the leap and get the shot. Additionally, she adds healthcare providers are affected by a wave of infections. They can also get sick or miss work to take care of a sick child or other family members. 

“What we need is our community to support us, like they did last summer, and keep this manageable because we do not have a deep bench of people like we did before,” pleaded Dr. Graves.