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Banner Health talks surgery delays, urgent care closures, low staffing

Banner Health talks surgery delays, urgent care closures, low staffing
Posted at 6:48 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 16:51:25-05

Addition: These numbers are subject to change daily. TMC now has 23 inpatient beds and 4 in the ICU.

COVID cases are surging throughout the state as the Omicron variant spreads. In Tucson, hospitals are struggling to provide care for their patients, and important surgeries are being delayed.

“Our hospitals and our emergency departments and our urgent care settings remain very busy,” said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Chief Clinical Officer Banner Health.

Inpatient and ICU beds are completely filled at Banner University Medical Center in South Tucson.

“We’ve started to see COVID hospitalizations pick up again," Bessel said. "They’ve been on an upward trend since around January 1st. Now a third of our inpatient beds are occupied by COVID or suspected COVID patients.”

Other local hospitals are seeing similar trends. Five of nine hospitals in Tucson have no inpatient beds available. Three of those have no available ICU beds.

“Specifically the state of Arizona is experience exponential increase of cases,” Bessel said.

The low numbers of doctors and nurses continue to drop as many are contracting COVID themselves.

“We’ve had to temporarily close some of our urgent care locations due to staff availability," Bessel said. "This has resulted in longer wait times at urgent cares that remain open.”

Dr. Bessel says banner will continue to provide “medically necessary” surgeries. But the definition of what’s medically necessary fluctuates.

“It’s not a set definition in that something could be not necessary and you wait a week and it is necessary,” said Dr. Roy Loewenstein, at Arizona Community Physicians.

Loewenstein says many of his patients needing joint replacements are having delayed surgeries.

“Each week that their joint surgery is postponed, they get weaker," Loewenstein said. "That means the outcome of surgery when they do have it is usually not as good.”

Doctors expect these problems will only get worse.

“We do expect that we will have continued staffing shortages because we are not yet at the peak of this Omicron variant," Bessel said. "We do expect some disruptions in our surgical schedule in the upcoming weeks.”

To search for hospital utilization by facility, click here.