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Some Austin-area hospitals postponing elective procedures as more staff heads to the state

Local hospital systems continue to face a strain due to COVID-19 hospitalizations.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, a spokesperson for Baylor Scott & White Health confirmed with KVUE that it is choosing to postpone elective surgeries and procedures as it continues to struggle with hospital capacity due to COVID-19.

The news comes after multiple weeks of headlines regarding a rise in cases and hospitalizations, especially among the unvaccinated. ICU capacity has also be dwindling locally and across the state.

Meanwhile, Ascension Seton told KVUE it is continuing to review elective surgeries on a daily basis. And St. David's HealthCare reports that it has re-postponed a limited number of elective procedures.

RELATED: Looking at Texas ICU numbers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic

Baylor Scott & White Health provided the following statement: 

As we have throughout the pandemic, we are closely monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases across our service areas and adjusting our policies and procedures. The Delta variant is the most dangerous strain we have seen yet, leading to rapidly increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization. 

To continue ensuring that our hospital is ready for those who need care most during this time, we are postponing elective surgeries and procedures. Our teams will be contacting patients directly. This is a change that may vary day-to-day to preserve hospital capacity and to protect the health and well-being of our patients and colleagues. 

We will still perform urgent and emergent procedures. We are reviewing each case closely to make these determinations with the acuity of the procedure ultimately decided by the patient’s physician. Most cases involving patients who have cancer or those needing cardiovascular procedures, for example, will move forward. 

The safety of our patients and caregivers remains our highest priority. As always, we thank our care teams for their dedication as we face this challenge together. 

It is important to note that many of the patients we are treating for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and wearing a mask are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available through our digital portal, MyBSWHealth, or by phone at 1-844-BSW-VACC (1-844-279-8222). Any Texan can create a MyBSWHealth account by downloading the MyBSWHealth app, simply text BETTER to 88408 or visit MyBSWHealth.com

Ascension Seton's statement is below:

We are at another critical point in the fight against COVID-19. Hospitalization numbers of COVID-19 patients continue to increase across Central Texas causing extraordinary strain on hospitals’ capacity and staffing. As we have throughout the pandemic, Ascension Seton monitors and adjusts our response plans to continue to provide excellent patient care.

Operating Rooms at Ascension Seton are open. To ensure that our hospitals are ready for those who need care most during this time, we review the scheduling of elective surgeries and procedures on a daily basis to preserve hospital capacity as needed and to protect the health and well-being of our patients and colleagues.

St. David's HealthCare's response:

As we have done throughout the pandemic with our preparedness response, we are working to balance our readiness to care for patients with COVID-19 while continuing to make sure the many other patients who depend on our hospitals receive needed and timely care. We are reviewing scheduled procedures based on a number of factors, including the urgency of the procedure, the clinical judgment of our physicians, as well as the current circumstances in our facilities, including available physical capacity and available staffing. Throughout the phases of the pandemic, we have, at times, voluntarily postponed and rescheduled a limited number of elective procedures, when necessary, to ensure adequate capacity for COVID-19 patients.

As we implement our surge plans in response to the evolving needs of our community, our focus continues to be on the health and safety of our patients and colleagues.

The Department of State Health Services told KVUE Thursday that it is continuing to allocate medical surge staff across the state through the Hospital Preparedness Program's (HPP) regions. 

Travis County sits in Trauma Service Area O, which is part of the CATRAC HPP region. CATRAC also includes TSAs L, M and N. 

CATRAC has requested 1,924 additional staff members. As of Aug. 25, 511 have been deployed. The HPP managed by CATRAC has also received 30 IV pumps, 20 ventilators, 10 suction pumps and eight beds.

Also on Thursday, the DSHS and Gov. Abbott announced that 2,500 more staff members would be deployed to help Texas hospitals and nursing homes, bringing the total to 8,100.

"The medical personnel and equipment deployed by DSHS will provide crucial support to our health care facilities as they treat hospitalized cases of COVID-19," said Gov, Abbott. "Texans can do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and hospitalizations by getting the vaccine. It's safe, effective, and your best defense against COVID-19. Visit covidvaccine.texas.gov to find a vaccine provider near you."

A leader at Texas Hospital Association said they appreciate the State's help, but it will take weeks to actually relieve some of these hospitals and that's concerning.

"We've got this ongoing spread of disease," said Vice President of Advocacy Quality and Public Health for the Texas Hospital Association Carrie Kroll. "We have schools starting. So the children now in the classroom potentially spreading it. We know that we're headed into flu season and add to that, our first tropical storm is threatening the state. So really, at some point, there's only so much you can take on top disasters on top of each other." 

Kroll pleaded with Texans to wear masks, social distance and get vaccinated if possible to help free up hospital beds and staff. 

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