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Banner Health Arizona hospitals to cautiously resume elective surgeries

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Allyson Black (R), a registered nurse, cares for COVID-19 patients in a makeshift ICU (Intensive Care Unit) at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center on January 21, 2021 in Torrance, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – With Arizona’s winter COVID-19 wave receding for the first time in months, the state’s largest hospital system will cautiously resume elective surgeries for the first time this year.

“Because of the downward trends we are seeing in cases and hospitalizations, we have made the decision to partially resume elective surgeries at Banner hospitals on Jan. 25,” Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Banner Health chief clinical officer, said during a press conference Friday.

“Surgeries that can resume include those that are outpatient and those that require no more than a one-night stay with no ICU care.”

Banner halted elective surgeries Jan. 1 amid the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases and patients suffering serious complications.

“Our hospitals will look a little bit different as we move forward to do some of those surgical procedures for patients that have already been waiting more than three weeks to have their procedure done,” she said.

Bessel said depending on conditions, staffing and other factors, some Banner facilities might decide it’s best to continue the moratorium.

However, procedures classified as “elective” are still medically necessary, and delays can be dangerous.

“If they are postponed for too long, they could turn into emergent medical issues that then require hospitalization or subsequent ICU care,” she said.

The number of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 inpatients at all of Arizona’s hospitals fell to 4,495 on Thursday, the fewest since Dec. 28. The number of ICU beds used by COVID patients dipped to 1,054, the second-fewest since Dec. 28.

The hospital surge, which started in early November and was supercharged by travel and gatherings over the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, hit its peak Jan. 11 at more than 5,082 inpatients, including 1,183 in ICUs.

“We are very pleased to have some reduction in our hospitalizations,” Bessel said. “It does require us, however, to remain vigilant because there is a lot of uncontrolled spread still within our communities.”

Banner’s models are predicting a slower recovery from the current wave than occurred after summer surge.

“We do expect to reach pre-surge hospitalization levels, but not for another 10 to 11 weeks,” Bessel said.

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