‘We have seen an 80% growth in cases in the past two weeks’: Ballad Health to defer some elective procedures as COVID-19 cases surge

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- In Ballad Health’s COVID-19 weekly news briefing, administrators said they will soon start deferring “certain types of elective procedures” due to an increase in the number of coronavirus cases.

Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine said Wednesday that they will begin a 25% deferral of certain types of elective procedures at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport.

That deferral of services will begin Monday, October 26.

Ballad Health officials also said that as a region we’ve reached a “new point” in this pandemic with an 80 percent growth in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks.

Ballad Health reported that as of Wednesday there were a total of 135 COVID-19 patients at Ballad hospitals, and 17 designated COVID-19 beds available.

As of Wednesday, there were also 21 COVID-19 patients in the ICU, and 10 COVID-19 patients on a ventilator.

With this progression of infections – Ballad projects the 1,800 new cases counted in the region last week will equate to 110 hospitalizations and 35 deaths.

“So if we have another 1,800 cases next week, that will be another 35 projected deaths,” said Chief Infection Prevention Director Jamie Swift.

Officials continued calls for public mask-wearing and distancing. Levine said a person’s likelihood of being exposed to the virus out in the community is now far greater than being exposed in the hospital, due to the safety measures taken.

“Those issues are real, those consequences are real. And I think the public needs to understand that is the ultimate effect of how good we are at preventing the spread,” Levine said of the hospitalization and death projections.

The amount of elective procedure deferrals and hospitals affected could grow depending on the case numbers and resources needed – with staffing shortages a primary concern.

“We are right now on the cusp of the limits that we have in certain of our facilities to care for the COVID patients, and all of the elective and other types of admissions that we are trusted to care for,” Levine said.

Levine added during Wednesday’s news briefing that they have about 40 nurses out who are COVID-19 positive. Officials confirmed this is Ballad’s highest number of positive employees yet. Swift said they believe most of the infections came from community spread.

Levine said the nursing shortage is being felt across the country.

“The constant PPE, the changing of PPE. Different ways of dealing with the patient and the family. These things are very stressful and they add a lot of burden to the nursing staff,” he said.

Levine said they’ve tried to combat this with a pay adjustment for nursing assistants, moving to add more trainers for nursing assistants, and investing millions of dollars in contract labor.

This is a developing story. Look for updates on WJHL.com.

You can watch the entire briefing on our WJHL Facebook page below.

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