JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Ballad Health will suspend elective, non-emergency surgical procedures requiring overnight stays effective Monday, Aug. 16 as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

The health system said it is in the process of notifying affected patients with procedures already scheduled.

“This was not an easy decision to make; however, it is necessary to preserve manpower and hospital resources to address the COVID-19 pandemic in the Appalachian Highlands,” Eric Deaton, Ballad’s chief operating officer said in a release. “Just because these procedures are elective or non-emergent, it doesn’t mean they’re not needed. People who are waiting for these procedures are in pain, and their quality of life is being impacted. But we must address the most life-threatening conditions first, and right now, COVID-19 is posing a major threat to the lives of thousands of people in our region – even if it is now largely preventable with a vaccine.”

Elective surgical patients whose procedures will still take place will be required to take a COVID-19 test prior to arriving at the hospital, including patients who are fully vaccinated.

Ballad said it was treating 169 coronavirus patients, including three pediatric patients, as of Thursday. Of the 169 inpatients, 49 were in intensive care and 30 were on ventilators.

The health system estimates that its inpatient hospitalization census could reach as high as 500.

This marks the third time Ballad has suspended elective procedures since the pandemic began.