The Lower Delmarva Peninsula, like much of the broader region, is in the midst of the COVID-19 Delta variant surge. TidalHealth Peninsula Regional has made the difficult decision to pause elective surgeries requiring an overnight stay starting on Monday, Sept. 13. The pause will be for at least two weeks. This pause became necessary because of underlying hospital capacity limitations described in more detail below.
While the pause in those elective surgeries is only at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional, the same criteria is being evaluated daily with physician leadership at TidalHealth Nanticoke. These limitations will be continuously reviewed so that the suspension can be lifted as soon as it is safe to do so.
Several factors have combined recently to put stress on hospital staffing levels and hospital bed capacity. In addition to the Delta surge, we (and hospitals around the country) are experiencing a severe short- age of nurses. Many nurses across the country have decided to leave the profession over the past several months for a variety of reasons. While TidalHealth is taking action to support adequate nursing levels today, it is also working with our local nursing schools to increase the sup- ply of newly trained nurses for the future.
Patients who are ill with COVID are contributing to the significant demand on the limited resources of the Emergency Department, hospital floors and ICU. The vast majority of patients who are getting sick enough with COVID to require hospitalization are unvaccinated. The subject of COVID vaccination has unfortunately become politicized. There are some indisputable truths, however, based on available community data and on current medical science:
1) The vaccine is safe. Hundreds of millions of doses have been delivered worldwide and while there are relatively small numbers of adverse reactions (as there are to any vaccine), it is safe.
2) Wicomico County is only 45 percent vaccinated, Worcester County 66 percent, and Sussex County 56 percent. The reasons for such low vaccination rates are many and include widespread misinformation and many concerns that are not supported by the available data.
What clearly is happening, however, is that unvaccinated people are getting COVID at an unprecedented rate; they are getting sick and are requiring hospitalization. This preventable stress on our already- stressed system contributes to delays in care across the board. These delays affect those presenting to the emergency room for a variety of non-COVID emergencies. They also now include delays for our friends and neighbors who need surgery for a variety of reasons.
There are many times that our hospital needs to face challenges on its own with our talented and incredibly dedicated medical and nursing staff. For this current challenge, however, there is actually something community members can do.
If you are not vaccinated, please get vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, please encourage an unvaccinated member of the family, friend or neighbor to get vaccinated. It is absolutely the most community- minded thing anyone can do right now. And, it will ensure our hospitals are fully ready to care for every medical need without unnecessary pressure on our resources.
Steven Leonard, PhD, MBA, FACHE CEO, TidalHealth
Mark T. Edney, MD, MBA President, TidalHealth Peninsula Regional Medical Staff
Editor’s note: This letter was sent to the Star prior to the decision to stop elective surgeries at TidalHealth Nanticoke.