California delays elective surgeries in 14 counties as hospitals are strained

Virus Outbreak California
Posted at 7:53 AM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-06 11:01:04-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — California issued a public health order Tuesday to delay non-essential surgeries and direct hospitals with available room to accept patients from other hospitals that have run out of ICU beds.

The health order delays elective surgeries "and non-life-threatening" surgeries in 14 counties across the state, including in San Diego County. This may include delaying carpal tunnel release or non-urgent spine surgeries, but it will not affect surgeries involving serious medical conditions, like cancer removal or heart surgeries, according to the state Department of Public Health (CDPH).

The order lasts three weeks and applies to any county where intensive care unit capacity is 10% or less and the regional capacity has been exhausted. Counties immediately impacted by the order sit in the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions, which are currently at 0% ICU capacity.

San Diego County officials reported on Tuesday that the region had 20% ICU capacity. The state's order, however, clarifies that it is using the CDPH's calculation of ICU capacity, which may be different.

(Read the state's health order here.)

"If we continue to see an alarming increase of COVID-19 patient admissions at hospitals statewide, some facilities may not be able to provide the critical and necessary care Californians need, whether those patients have COVID-19 or another medical condition," said Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer. "This order helps ensure that patients continue to receive appropriate medical services by better distributing available resources across the state to prevent overwhelming specific hospitals, counties and regions."


The order also requires California hospitals with available capacity to accept patients from facilities that have implemented crisis care and run out of ICU capacity — as long as those transfers can be done safely.

The CDPH says that coronavirus hospitalizations across the state have increased 17% in the last 14 days, while ICU cases have jumped 21% over the same period.

"When hospitals are overwhelmed and overflowing, they are no longer able to provide the traditional standards of care we expect, but if health care resources are available elsewhere, we should ensure Californians can receive appropriate care," Aragón added.