Elective surgeries in Indiana’s largest health system to resume as COVID burden eases

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s largest hospital system plans to resume elective surgeries soon after postponing them for months as COVID-19 patients and other acutely ill patients crowded its hospitals around the state.

Indiana University Health officials said Thursday some elective procedures could resume next week at the Indianapolis-based system, which operates 16 hospitals.

IU Health has a backlog of thousands of elective surgeries, procedures that are medically necessary but can usually be scheduled at a patient’s convenience, such as hip replacements and tonsillectomies, said Dr. Paul Calkins, vice president and associate chief medical executive.

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He said elective surgeries would resume slowly “because we still have a significant COVID burden.”

“It’s going to take a while to ramp back up to serve all these folks that are waiting for us. But we’re hoping to get to everybody as quickly as we can,” Calkins said Thursday.

He said IU Health has continued to perform emergency and urgent surgeries, such as those for cancer, gunshot wounds and heart attacks. As the state’s largest hospital system, it normally performs more than 70,000 surgeries a year.

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IU Health was treating 567 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across its system as of Thursday, but that was down about 15% from a peak of 669 on Jan. 9, officials said. COVID-19 cases represent about 30% of the system’s total patient census.

About 70% of the COVID-19 cases at IU Health hospitals are patients who are unvaccinated, but that figure is as high as 90% in the intensive care unit, said Dr. Chris Weaver, chief clinical officer.

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