BayCare to pause some elective procedures as virus cases surge

The decision follows a statewide increase in coronavirus cases, mostly among unvaccinated people.
The entrance to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.
The entrance to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. [ Courtesy of Lisa Razler ]
Published July 27, 2021|Updated July 28, 2021

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and other BayCare Health System facilities will scale back their elective procedures later this week as COVID-19 cases surge, spokesperson Lisa Razler confirmed Wednesday.

The changes will impact elective procedures that involve an overnight visit in an inpatient bed, and will take place in various Hillsborough and Polk County facilities as a response to an increase in patients in the hospitals.

According to Razler’s email, several hospitals will be impacted, including St. Joseph’s, St. Joseph’s Children’s and St. Joseph’s Women’s in Tampa; St. Joseph’s South in Riverview; St. Joseph’s North in Lutz; Bartow Regional Medical Center; South Florida Baptist in Plant City; Winter Haven and Winter Haven Women’s.

“Our priority is always patient safety and being sure we are available to serve our communities’ acute health needs,” Glenn Waters, BayCare’s chief operating officer, said in a statement. “This move is helps us to continue to have capacity to serve those needs.”

Florida added 73,199 coronavirus cases and 282 deaths from July 16 to July 22, a weekly caseload not seen since Feb. 5, as the more contagious delta variant continued to spread, particularly among unvaccinated populations. The hospital’s decision comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated people wear masks indoors in some situations and Florida defense lawyers called for a return to virtual hearings.

Coronavirus patients have more than tripled in BayCare hospitals in the past three weeks, Razler said.

St. Joseph’s Hospital, Winter Haven and Winter Haven Women’s will begin pausing procedures Thursday. The remaining facilities will scale back operations starting Monday. Pinellas and Pasco county operations will not be impacted by the changes.

Razler said BayCare hospitals will continue to monitor COVID-19 cases as they schedule elective surgeries.

“With the increase of cases in the community, each of our facilities assesses their resources each day and, if needed, they will be rescheduling elective procedures to make sure we remain ready to serve the community’s urgent needs,” she said in an email.

BayCare has a clinical review process for physicians or patients whose procedures are cancelled, but believe they are medically necessary and should be completed as soon as possible.

AdventHealth hospitals in Tampa Bay are not scaling back elective procedures just yet, officials said. Tampa General Hospital has not rolled back surgeries yet, either.

Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg said its “reviewing all options” at this point, but has not yet changed its surgery schedules. As of July 27, the hospital reported 24 in-house positive COVID-19 patients, 10 of which were in the intensive care unit, according to a statement.

“This rise is not unexpected and attributed primarily to the large number of individuals who have not been vaccinated,” the statement read. “Approximately 90 percent of our COVID-19 inpatients are unvaccinated.”