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Delaware hospitals postpone non-urgent surgeries as COVID cases continue to rise

A rise in COVID cases this holiday season is putting more stress on Delaware’s hospitals.

The average number of new cases of COVID-19 in the First state has almost doubled since the Thanksgiving holiday, following a similar trend to last year.

And coupled with higher demand for non-COVID related medical care, some of Delaware’s hospitals are forced to cut back on non-essential services.

ChristianaCare, Beebe healthcare and Bayhealth announced this week they are temporarily postponing elective surgeries, ones that aren’t time sensitive.

But ChristianaCare’s Chief Physician Ken Silverstein says despite this surge in new cases, the hospital is far better prepared than last year.

“Every surge of COVID has been different,” he says. “This one is different in that we know what we’re going with COVID, we’re not blindingly just shutting down services. We know that the community needs us to provide care in areas other than COVID. And so we are doing everything we can to continue to provide those services.”

Silverstein says a big contributor to increased demand is patients who may have delayed treatment because of the pandemic, and he wants to ensure the hospitals are able to get those people the treatment they need.

In a statement, Beebe Healthcare says, “We understand that elective doesn’t mean unnecessary, and we’re working to ensure everyone gets the quality care they need in a timely manner. Patients whose elective surgeries are paused will be contacted by their surgeon’s office.”

Silverstein adds his organization has been lucky to avoid the major hospital worker shortage seen elsewhere nationwide.

“So recruitment efforts have been quite successful, and we’re very proud of that,” says Silverstein. “ChristianaCare has a great reputation, it’s a great place to work and we are being successful with recruiting.”

Silverstein says the decision to postpone elective surgeries is to ensure there’s physical room for the flow of patients coming into the emergency room and enough doctors and staff to take care of them.

He says ending this latest wave of COVID patients requires the community to get vaccinated if they haven’t, get a booster if they have, and take other public health precautions.

Last year’s holiday surge only receded to typical levels around early February — but that was before the vast majority of people were eligible for the vaccine.

Delaware’s other hospital systems couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of this story’s publication.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.