Eastern Shore Hospital Forced to Delay Some Elective Surgeries

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Faced with challenges that have stretched its capacity, TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, the Eastern Shore’s largest hospital, will not perform elective surgeries that require an overnight stay, effective Monday.

In a statement, TidalHealth officials said an influx of COVID-19 patients and a nursing shortage forced the decision to “pause” non-emergency surgeries.

“TidalHealth has a set of criteria that examines physical bed capacity, unit based staffing, critical care bed saturation and the overall percentage of COVID-positive patients based on our total admissions,” said Chief Nursing Officer Sarah Arnett in a statement.

“The trigger point to discuss reduction in elective procedures is when we have exceeded our defined thresholds in three or more criteria for several days, which we have.”

Hospital officials said they will not perform elective in-patient surgeries for at least two weeks.

The pause only effects Peninsula Regional, the system’s main hospital in Salisbury, though evaluations at TidalHealth Nanticoke, in Seaford, Del., are being conducted daily.

Two of the counties served by TidalHealth rank among the lowest in the state for COVID-19 vaccinations.

In Wicomico, 49.8% of the population has had at least one shot, the fifth lowest in Maryland, according to the state Department of Health. Somerset’s rate, 45.8%, is second lowest.

Neighboring Worcester has a 64.6% one-dose rate, fifth best in the state, and Dorchester, at 54.3%, is ranked 16th.

Just under 82% of all Maryland residents aged 18-and-up have had at least one dose.

“What clearly is happening… is that unvaccinated people are getting COVID at an unprecedented rate, they are getting sick and are requiring hospitalization,” TidalHealth CEO Steve Leonard said in the statement. “This preventable stress on our already stressed healthcare system contributes to delays in care across the board.”

Mark Edney, president of the medical staff, said the “vast majority” of patients who “are getting sick enough with COVID to require hospitalization are unvaccinated.”

People coming to the emergency room for non-COVID emergencies are experiencing delays in care because of “preventable” illnesses being faced by non-vaccinated patients, he added.

“If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated,” Edney said. “And if you are, encourage an unvaccinated friend, family member or loved one to get vaccinated.”

Beckers Hospital Review, an industry newsletter, reported this week that eight hospitals — in Georgia, Idaho, Maine, South Carolina, North Carolina and Indiana — have had to pause elective surgeries due to capacity, staffing or other concerns.

The Capital-Gazette reported Friday that Anne Arundel Medical Center is also delaying elective surgeries that require overnight care. The medical center, in Annapolis, has an average of 40 COVID-19 patients per day that require longer-term care, and has also been experiencing an influx in emergency room visits, the newspaper reported.

The TidalHealth statement said that system officials will “continuously evaluate” their ability to resume elective overnight surgeries and will do rescind the pause “as soon as it’s safe to do so.”

Danielle E. Gaines contributed to this report. 

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.