‘We didn’t do it lightly’: Summa Health on decision to suspend some elective procedures


AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – As Northeast Ohio hospitals continue to experience a rise in coronavirus cases, another health system is scaling back on non-essential surgeries.

Summa Health announced it is suspending elective, non-emergency surgeries starting Tuesday.

“It’s actually needed now,” said Summa Health System Akron Campus President Dr. David Custodio. “Obviously, to make this decision, we didn’t do it lightly, and we understand the repercussions of that.”

Custodio said the move comes as the health system reallocates staff to new units it has created to increase capacity for COVID-19 patients.

“We’re reaching the point where we needed to take that staff that was providing care that was not urgent or emergent and help them staff our overflow units,” Custodio said.

He said there are currently about 140 coronavirus patients system-wide, nearly three times the number of patients Summa Health during the pandemic’s first peak in the spring.

Models show coronavirus cases continuing to rise in Ohio in the coming weeks, The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ohio will not reach a peak until mid-January.

Custodio said there’s no set date for elective procedures at Summa Health to resume.

“I wish we could say exactly we can start on Jan. 2, but that would be misleading. We don’t know and that really depends on the trajectory and the capacity,” he said.

The Cleveland Clinic resumed non-essential inpatient surgeries on Monday, Nov. 23, after a more than weeklong suspension. The system said it will re-evaluate its ability to continue the procedures on a daily basis.

University Hospitals said it assesses capacity every four hours and, right now, has the resources to continue all care across its 12 hospitals.

“The real issue, I think, is staffing, No. 1, and then, No. 2, the size of the total COVID inpatient population,” said University Hospitals Chief Clinical and Scientific Officer Dr. Daniel Simon.

Simon said many patients have delayed needed care and screenings amid the pandemic, worsening health conditions, delaying childhood vaccinations and upstaging cancer diagnoses.

“It’s our responsibility to provide care for all of our patients in our community, both with COVID and without, and we’ll continue to do that as long as we can,” Simon said.

Health leaders from all local hospitals continue to encourage everyone to wear masks, wash hands, and social distance to prevent a worst-case scenario for hospital capacity.

“Our behaviors make a big difference,” Simon said. 

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