Indiana’s largest health system resumes elective surgeries

Indiana’s largest hospital system plans to resume elective surgery soon after a delay of several months, as COVID-19 patients and other acutely ill patients fill the state’s hospitals.

Some elective procedures may resume next week in the Indianapolis system, which operates 16 hospitals, Indiana University health officials said Thursday.

IU Health has a backlog of thousands of elective surgeries that are medically necessary but can often be scheduled at the patient’s convenience, such as hip replacements and tonsillectomy, Dr. Paul Calkins, vice president and deputy chief medical executive Say.

Elective surgeries will return slowly “because we still have a heavy COVID burden,” he said.

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“It will take a while to get back to serving all these people waiting for us,” Calkins said Thursday. “But we want to get to everyone as quickly as possible.”

IU Health continues to perform emergency and emergency surgeries, such as those for cancer, gunshot wounds and heart attacks, he said. As the largest hospital system in the state, it typically performs more than 70,000 procedures per year.

IU Health was treating 567 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across the system as of Thursday, officials said, but that was down about 15 percent from a peak of 669 on Jan. 9. COVID-19 cases represent approximately 30% of the system’s total patient census.

About 70% of COVID-19 cases at IU Health hospitals are unvaccinated patients, but in intensive care units the figure is as high as 90%, chief clinical officer Dr Chris Weaver said.

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