With ICU admissions at all-time high, UC Health adds intensive care beds, new surgery restrictions

New measures take effect this week
Posted at 1:58 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 20:31:56-05

CINCINNATI — UC Health is enhancing surge operations at its hospitals as part of the health network's ongoing efforts to keep up with record or near-record numbers of daily COVID-19-related hospitalizations. The new restrictions include adding new ICU beds and further limiting the types of surgeries and procedures performed by UC Health physicians.

A Nov. 28 memo from UC Health President and CEO Richard Lofgren to senior leaders and physicians, obtained by WCPO, indicated: "COVID-19 case volumes are projected to increase on a trajectory that will continue to stretch the capacity of our physical, emotional and human resources... [T]his reality is causing our critical care units, including the CVICU and MICU, to be under considerable stress and duress."

New measures that took effect Monday include limiting all surgeries and procedures to only those deemed both medically necessary and time-sensitive, inpatient and emergency cases and outpatient elective cases that do not require a stay at the hospital, among other measures, according to Lofgren's memo.

Effective Tuesday, Dec. 1, the healthcare system will repurpose the University of Cincinnati Medical Center's Cardiovascular Recovery Unit as an eight-bed intensive care unit.

On Nov. 16, UC Health reduced inpatient elective procedures by 50%. According to UC Health spokesperson Amanda Nageleisen, other restrictions enacted earlier this month also remain in effect: critical care attending physicians must approve all transfers into ICU beds, and outpatient visits will move to telehealth when and where appropriate.

According to the Ohio Hospital Association, one in four hospital patients across southwest Ohio were COVID-19-positive by the end of November. That's double the rate three weeks earlier.

As for ICU beds, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training said the Tri-State region has never seen so many people requiring intensive care.

While some rumors began circulating on social media over the weekend that UCMC was "full" and that elective surgeries and transfers had been "canceled," Nageleisen pushed back against claims that the hospital was at capacity.

"Focusing on the number of hospital beds only tells part of the story," she wrote in a Nov. 29 email to WCPO. "We are taking these necessary steps to help preserve the ability of our people to continue to provide both COVID and non-COVID care. Our critical-care specialists have been on the front lines of this battle for eight months, and they are exhausted."

Nageleisen said, "The best thing the public can do is wear a mask, socially distance and stay home as much as possible to help us preserve the ability of our staff to provide care."