Ballad Health to pause elective, non-emergency surgeries starting Thursday

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn (WJHL) — Ballad Health will postpone all elective and non-emergent surgeries starting this Thursday, a health system spokesman told News Channel 11 Tuesday night.

The move represents the health system’s latest attempts to respond to a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations that Ballad now expects will increase to as many as 400 in two weeks.

Tuesday, Ballad’s COVID-19 census was at 283 with six of those patients in Niswonger Children’s Hospital.

“The volume trends are exceeding what had been modeled as a most hopeful scenario, with the census growing a surprising 29% since Friday, Aug. 20,” said Molly Lutton, Ballad’s vice president of marketing and communications. “Based on current modeling, it is now likely that, without any changes to the trends, Ballad Health could be serving as many as 400 COVID-19 patients within two weeks.”

Beginning Aug. 16, Ballad paused elective procedures that required an overnight stay, a move the system says helped mitigate the impact of the most recent COVID surge.

“This is a necessary move to preserve much-needed space and staffing,” Lutton said.

“Ballad Health is not furloughing team members at this time, but rather, may ask affected team members to provide support in various areas throughout the facility in which they work. This will enable Ballad Health to prioritize the most critical and highest-acuity patients. “

Ballad Health’s Chief Physician Clay Runnels said the decision follows as COVID-19 cases rise and noted the surge was preventable.

“This was not an easy decision to make; however, it is necessary if we’re to effectively fight the COVID-19 pandemic in our hospitals,” said Dr. Clay Runnels, Ballad Health’s chief physician executive. “The people who need these procedures are not experiencing their best quality of life, and it deeply troubles us that we have to put them on hold to handle this COVID-19 surge – one that could have been prevented or at least mitigated with more widespread prevention measures and a higher uptake of vaccines.”

Postponed procedures include the following:

  • hernia repair
  • cholecystectomy
  • cardiac and interventional radiology procedures
  •  aesthetic and plastic surgeries
  •  podiatric procedures
  • vasectomies
  • bariatrics
  • joint replacements
  • screening endoscopies
  • non-essential spine surgery

Watch the health system’s weekly briefing below:

Look for live coverage here on

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