San Diego County

Local Hospitals Have Gotten Head Start on State's New Order for Some Counties to Delay Non-Emergency Surgeries

The newly released order applies to counties and regions with an ICU capacity below 10%

NBC Universal, Inc.

The California Department of Public Health issued an order late Tuesday directing hospitals to delay non-urgent surgery in an effort to help the state’s strained health care system, but some San Diego County medical facilities had already gotten a head start.

The new order targets counties and regions that have an ICU capacity of less than 10% and since San Diego County falls under Southern California, the county must follow the order as well. However, local medical professionals had already kickstarted their halt on non-emergency surgeries early.

In at least the last three months, more than 30 patients at UC San Diego Health facilities have had treatment delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. While Southern California as a region grapples with 0% ICU capacity, medical professionals are focusing their efforts on those who are the sickest and need immediate care.

“Really, it comes down to a point where you can’t do a transplant because there’s actually no place to put the patients after the transplant,” said Kristin Mekeel, a UC San Diego Health surgeon. “There is no ICU bed available and that’s really the issue that we’re getting into.”

An occupational therapist who has been treating COVID-19 patients during the pandemic says the suffering and death she and her colleagues have witnessed over the past year have taken a a steep emotional toll. Lizzy Pesch joined LX News to share a powerful poem she wrote about the experience and the moment that inspired her put her feelings on paper.

Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente also stopped what it described as “elective, non-urgent surgeries and procedures” at 15 hospitals in Southern California until at least Jan. 10. In Imperial County, Pioneers Memorial Hospital states more than 65% of scheduled surgeries have not been done due to the pandemic, according to Chief Executive Officer Larry Lewis.

COVID-19 cases in San Diego County swelled during the holiday season as health officials pleaded with the public to stay home. Since mid-February, more than 170,000 positive COVID-19 cases were reported in the county and the death toll climbed to 1,654.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that San Diego County is not required to follow the order.

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