High Covid Hospitalizations Have Delayed Elective Surgeries

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Because of her condition, she chokes easily and has a hard time breathing. “I just cry all the time because of my situation,” she said.

Compounding the physical discomfort is her frustration that so many people in her state won’t get vaccinated against Covid, and they are getting sick and taking up hospital beds.

Only 66 percent of adults in Georgia have received at least one vaccine dose, compared with 77 percent of all adults in the United States who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the latest data from federal and state health officials.


Sept. 21, 2021, 6:34 p.m. ET

“They are punishing people like me,” Ms. Strong said.

In some areas, doctors are explicitly rationing care. On Thursday, Idaho state officials expanded “crisis standards of care” across the state, a standard that had been limited to the northern part of the state earlier in the month. “We don’t have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for Covid-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident,” Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said in a statement.

With precious few available intensive-care beds, Idaho hospitals had largely stopped providing hernia surgeries or hip replacements before the new order. Now they are postponing cancer and heart surgeries, too, said Brian Whitlock, the chief executive of the Idaho Hospital Association. The hospitals there “have been doing their level best,” he said.

In Alaska, the state’s largest hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, has also begun rationing care as patients wait for hours to get to the emergency room and doctors scramble to find beds. “While we are doing our utmost, we are no longer able to provide the standard of care to each and every patient who needs our help,” said the hospital’s medical staff in a letter to the community in mid-September.

When the pandemic first slammed hospitals last year, many institutions found no alternative to postponing nonessential procedures. “We weren’t sure what we were really going to face,” said Dr. Matthias Merkel, senior associate chief medical officer for capacity management and patient flow at Oregon Health & Science University, the state’s academic medical center in Portland. “We pre-emptively stopped elective surgeries and emptied out the hospitals.”