The Journal Gazette
Friday, September 03, 2021 1:00 am

IU Health suspends certain surgeries

Non-emergency procedures end as COVID surges

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana's largest hospital system will temporarily halt non-emergency inpatient surgeries amid a growing statewide surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Indiana University Health announced Thursday that the surgery suspension would start Monday. The decision comes after IU Health said last week it was cutting such surgeries by half.

“The surge of COVID-19 patient volumes has continued to accelerate at a rapid pace, and this temporary change is needed to further relieve pressure on our care teams and to free up space for critically ill patients,” IU Health said in a statement.

Indiana hospitals were treating 2,366 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday, according to the state health department. That was double the number of COVID-19 patients from 24 days earlier.

IU Health, which operates 16 hospitals around the state, also said that more than 200 employees did not meet Wednesday's deadline to get COVID-19 vaccinations and would be suspended immediately. The system announced the requirement in June for its some 36,000 employees.

IU Health does not have an inpatient hospital in the Fort Wayne area. The health system has three primary care centers and a newly opened ambulatory surgery center that is not affected by the non-emergency surgery suspension.

Plans are under way for a fourth medical office center at Interstate 69 and Airport Expressway and a facility at Indiana 37 and Interstate 469.

IU Health has said unvaccinated workers will be placed on two-week suspensions and allowed to return to work if they attest to partial or full vaccination.

“Vaccinating team members is a safe and effective way to protect patients and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in facilities and in the community,” IU Health spokesman Jeff Swiatek told the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Health officials blame Indiana's rapid surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations on the highly contagious delta variant, which has been identified in 98% of Indiana COVID-19 samples tested in the past month.

Along with hospitalizations, Indiana's COVID-19 deaths and intensive care unit cases have surged since falling to the pandemic's lowest levels in June and July.

The state health department on Thursday added 23 COVID-19 deaths to Indiana's toll, raising the pandemic total to 14,845 fatalities of people with confirmed or presumed coronavirus infections.

Indiana hospitals reported about 610 ICU patients with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, taking up 28% of available ICU beds. The number of such ICU patients is nearly three times what it was at the start of August.

The Indiana Hospital Association said the state's health system is strained by the delta variant's spread at a time when Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracking shows Indiana has the country's 15th lowest rate of residents fully vaccinated at 46.5%.

“There is a massive storm cloud of this virus sweeping up through Indiana and increasing our state's vaccination rate is the most effective way to ease the burden on our courageous health care heroes and ensure a hospital bed for every Hoosier that needs one,” hospital association President Brian Tabor said.

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