Banner Health postponing elective surgeries as some hospitals reach 120% capacity for beds

Banner Gateway Medical Center
Posted at 2:25 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 20:19:17-05

Banner Health announced Wednesday that they will pause all elective surgeries on January 1st as hospitals are hit hard by the COVID-19 surge.

Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said their Arizona hospital system hit 104% licensed bed capacity Tuesday. However, some hospitals, including Banner Thunderbird and Banner Estrella, have exceeded 120% licensed bed capacity.

"Due to the recent pressures on our health system brought on by the increase in patients, Banner Health has made the difficult decision to pause all elective surgeries effective January 1st," Dr. Bessel said.

She also noted several hospitals have recently gone on 'diversion', or temporarily closed to emergency transports or hospital transfers, due to a backlog of patients. While not uncommon in the winter months, she said it has been an unusually high number of hospitals having to do this.

"This diversion activity is an early indication that triage may soon be necessary if volumes continue to increase like they did this past week," she said.

Triage is a portion of Crisis Standards of Care, which, if utilized by a hospital, could see doctors making tough choices, such as who does and who doesn't get critical resources, like an ICU bed.

Dr. Bessel said Wednesday they are working to avoid a triage scenario.

"It is our absolute intention to do everything possible to avoid getting to a triage or rationing situation," Dr. Bessel said. "But we need your help. We must mitigate further, and we need you to make different decisions this upcoming holiday weekend. Shrink your circle and wear your mask."

ABC15 also talked with the head of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, who said the goal statewide is to balance patient loads and try and ensure no hospital gets to that dire triage situation.

"It's a reality and it's a possibility," said Ann-Marie Alameddin, President and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. "If we head into the holidays, people don't take action, people are cavalier with how they socialize with others on the New Year's holidays, they don't wear masks in public, we could reach those crisis standards of care."

Pinal County health officials will be beginning coronavirus vaccinations for group 1B soon, according to a message posted online Wednesday.