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Elective surgeries at Austin-area hospitals could soon resume

If COVID-19 patients continue to make up less than 15% of our area hospital capacity, come this weekend, elective surgeries could resume.

AUSTIN, Texas — Elective surgeries at Austin-area hospitals may soon resume if our hospital region continues to see COVID-19 patients make up less than 15% of our total hospital bed capacity. 

For six days now, COVID-19 patients have accounted for less than 15% of staffed beds in our hospital region. If that continues for seven days, elective surgeries at hospitals can resume and businesses can increase capacity from 50% to 75% again, according to the governor’s orders.

This is the third time in less than a year, hospitals were forced to stop most elective surgeries to make room for COVID-19 patients. The first time was during the COVID-19 surge in March, the second during the summer surge and the third was put into place on Jan. 10. 

RELATED: Coronavirus updates in Central Texas: Texas to receive more than 500,000 first doses of vaccine next week

"It's been very difficult for the hospitals," said Dr. Randall Schultz. "They've had a large volume of COVID-19 patients who've had to treat and keep as inpatients. Finally, it looks like we may be seeing some decrease and so, the hospitals, they need the elective surgery as well to pay the bills." 

Dr. Schultz is a surgeon with Texas Orthopedics. He also does elective surgeries at a couple of Austin-area hospitals. Dr. Schultz said at least 30% of his patients have had to reschedule because of the COVID-19 surges. 

"A lot of people are in a lot of pain," he said. "They make a lot of arrangements, you know, for family to be around and travel to help take care of them afterwards. So some poor patients were canceled two or three times." 

While his practice didn't have to close its doors this go-around, Dr. Schultz said Texas Orthopedics is still feeling the effects of the pandemic, as most of his patients are seniors getting hip and knee replacements. 

"Many of them would prefer to wait until they're vaccinated as well. But as we've seen, the rollout of that has been a little bit bumpy," said Dr. Schultz. 

Under the same order, if COVID-19 hospitalizations stay under 15% at area hospitals, restaurants and other businesses will be allowed to scale up from 50% occupancy to 75%.


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