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Banner Health expects long wait-times, postponed surgeries amid capacity crisis

Banner Health expects long wait-times, postponed surgeries amid capacity crisis
Posted at 6:19 PM, Dec 14, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — “If the forecasted trends continue, we will soon be unable to meet the healthcare demands of Arizonans,” said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Chief Medical Officer at Banner Medical Health.

It’s a dismal message. Bessel says several Banner Health Hospitals are operating above 100% capacity, and the future doesn't look bright.

“Banner’s predictive modeling tools show no signs of letting up,” Bessel said.

Although the number of COVID patients is dropping, Bessel says in-patient volumes are at their highest since the start of the pandemic. She says it’s a result of many non-COVID patients delaying going to the hospital.

“Some of them delayed preventative care, some of them are presenting after having symptoms for a protracted period of time, and presenting late in the course of their disease or illness,” Bessel said.

This, in addition to staffing issues, means there’s not enough staff to service their current bed capacities. Dr. Matt Heinz says he’s seen a similar trend.

“Frankly I don’t know who’s going to be left to care for anyone because we’re all going to quit," Dr. Matt Heinz, a local physician. "I don’t want to be doing this anymore.”

And this trend isn’t only impacting the health care workers.

“Someone having a stroke might not be able to get to an ICU bed because there are COVID patients refusing to get vaccinated, just taking them up.”

At Banner Health, some surgeries that require ICU stay are being postponed. Banner is now only prioritizing sick visits for established patients. Others will have to get in line.

“As a result patients may experience increased wait for non-urgent PCP appointments that can safely be delayed," Bessel said. "Such as routine follow-ups, well-visits, and new-patient visits.”

Bessel says Banner Health is not at crisis levels just yet, but she expects the situation to soon get worse.