Some Austin doctors warn patients of canceled surgeries as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase

Coronavirus Hospitalizations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — For five days in a row, COVID-19 patients have taken up more than 15% of hospital beds in our 11-county region. Baylor Scott & White tells KXAN they are treating more COVID-19 patients now than at any point in the pandemic.

If that trend holds for two more days, tougher restrictions will be enforced. That includes suspending elective surgeries. That’s what happened to Dan Ernst back in April.

“It was osteoarthritis, it was just part of the aging process,” said Ernst, a Texas Orthopedics patient. “I knew it’s been coming on for several years.”

Because of a halt in elective surgeries, his first knee replacement was postponed for months. Now, he’s facing another delay as he plans surgery for his second knee.

“You’re always planning time off, you’re planning to schedule for rehabilitation, and you’re always concerned that there’s further deterioration the longer you wait,” he said as he sits with his surgeon, Dr. Randall Schultz.

On Sunday, local hospitals reported COVID-19 patients occupied 15% of all staffed beds. Under the governor’s orders, if that number doesn’t drop for seven straight days, it would suspend some elective surgeries.

“I am notifying people that there’s a high probability that they may get canceled,” Schultz said, although he hasn’t yet canceled them.

He says elective surgeries have already been suspended twice this year, resulting in thousands of patients rescheduled across his practice.

He says some hospitals still allowed some procedures depending on bed, staffing and PPE availability.

“There’s a lot of factors on the hospital side,” he said. “Are we going to be potentially utilizing respirators and ventilators that might be needed elsewhere? Is there space that’s safe and appropriately cordoned off from COVID patients for our patients to be admitted to?”

But Schultz says based on current hospitalization rates, he expects hospitals to be even more restrictive than they were over the summer.

“They they were able to keep some facilities relatively free of COVID patients and concentrated them in some facilities, and this surge, that’s really been much more difficult to do,” he said.

Schultz says they may also see more of a backlog after this suspension than they have in the past.

“The dynamics of this surge are very different than what we experienced in the summer,” he says. “That was a very quick rise and a very quick fall. This has been a very slow and gradual rise and it doesn’t seem to have hit its apex yet, so we’re concerned that this one may potentially last longer, and therefore could affect more surgery.”

Schultz says he’s also been advising his patients, who mostly fall under the 1B vaccination group, to get vaccinated before coming in for surgery.

“From my standpoint, I also care about the health and safety of my patients for elective surgeries. Is it the best time to go outside in the middle of a hurricane?” he said.

Himself fully vaccinated, Schultz hopes that’s the ultimate key to ending the pandemic.

“We know that patients will soon be vaccinated as well and this likely will be the last major surge we’ll have to experience.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Austin-Travis County

More Austin-Travis County News

Tracking the Coronavirus

Coronavirus Cases Tracker

Latest Central Texas COVID-19 Cases

More Coronavirus Live Blogs

Trending Stories

Don't Miss