ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The area’s two biggest health care systems will temporarily pause and limit certain elective and semi-elective surgeries, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to spike across the region.

University of Rochester Medical Center’s pause began Monday and applies to all elective and semi-elective surgeries requiring inpatient hospital stays. Officials said this pause will last three weeks and then the policy will be reassessed based on current conditions.

Outpatient procedures will not be affected. UR Medicine defines elective and semi-elective surgeries as “those that can be delayed three months or longer without undue risk of harm to the patient, based on a review by teams of surgeons and other medical professionals.”

Patients who are impacted by the pause will be contacted, officials said.

According to a statement from UR Medicine, the pause will help the health care system maintain capacity in light of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Similarly, Rochester Regional Health is joining UR Medicine in limiting non-essential surgical procedures due to a rise in local COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The hospital system released a statement Friday saying inpatient elective surgeries will be limited at Rochester General, Unity, and Newark-Wayne Community hospitals. A statement from RRH officials Friday said in part:

“Rochester Regional Health is aware of the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) updates to limit non-essential elective procedures. RRH has already taken the active step of limiting inpatient elective surgeries at Rochester General, Unity, and Newark-Wayne Community hospitals beginning next week. Due to the newly released NYS DOH guidelines, further adjustments to surgical schedules may be required. We are actively communicating with our patients as the situation continues to evolve. The health of our patients continues to be a top priority.”

Monroe County declared a state of emergency Tuesday due to a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Read the full statement from UR Medicine

UR Medicine hospitals will implement a three-week pause on elective and semi-elective surgical procedures that require inpatient hospital stays, beginning Dec. 6. Outpatient procedures will continue at hospitals and surgery centers throughout the system.

The pause on elective inpatient surgeries will help UR Medicine maintain capacity for acute-care patients as COVID hospitalizations increase in the Finger Lakes region. This is in keeping with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Nov. 26 executive order requiring hospitals with less than 10 percent inpatient bed capacity to postpone non-emergency procedures.

Elective and semi-elective cases are those that can be delayed three months or longer without undue risk of harm to the patient, based on a review by teams of surgeons and other medical professionals. The pause affects only procedures that would require post-operative inpatient care in the hospital. Most UR Medicine hospitals already had postponed many of these elective inpatient cases in recent weeks, so relatively few scheduled surgeries will be delayed. Patients will be contacted directly if their case must be postponed; they do not need to contact their surgeon’s office.

UR Medicine, along with other health systems, have implemented temporary pauses on elective procedures earlier in the pandemic to ensure the community has immediate access to critical care.

Two key factors contribute to the current capacity challenge:

  • High numbers of COVID patients in inpatient and ICU beds – as of Nov. 30, 110 active cases at Strong Memorial, and 254 across the six-hospital UR Medicine system.
  • Inability to discharge “alternative level of care” patients, who no longer need inpatient care, to nursing homes because those facilities lack adequate staff – as of Nov. 30, 44 ALC patients at Strong Memorial, and 98 across the system.

UR Medicine hospitals will resume full surgery schedules as soon as conditions and available resources allow.