Centra Health cancels select elective surgeries as COVID-19 cases continue climbing rapidly lessening availability for beds


LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) – Centra Health announced on Wednesday that they are canceling elective procedures and surgeries for select patients.

The company made this decision after experiencing three deaths overnight due to coronavirus. In the month of August alone, 21 of Centra’s patients died from the virus. The rise in COVID-19 numbers is causing Centra to experience record number of patients in its emergency room.

According to Dr. Christopher Lewis, Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, “At this point, we are being more selective, but we may very well need to expand that pool of surgeries we need to cancel because of simply not being able to care for the patients that we need to see otherwise.”

Centra Health is one of the busiest emergency departments in Virginia. Centra Lynchburg General Hospital in Lynchburg currently has 70 COVID-positive patients, up from 45 just over a week ago. Meanwhile, 14 patients are in the intensive care unit (ICU), and eight are on ventilators. Centra Southside has a total of 16 ICU beds, 13 of which are filled.

“We are all doing the very best we can under really extreme circumstances,” said Dr. Lewis.

These extreme circumstances are putting a major strain on doctors, nurses, and other caregivers who are trying to provide the very best service they can to those in the community.

“It’s also been a challenge for the emotional toll for the people that have been working on the frontlines for a long time and that really is taking a toll just on the ability of people who really care deeply about this community, want to provide outstanding, excellent care and it’s exhausting,” said Dr. Matthew Foster, Centra’s Senior Vice President and Chief Physician Executive. “It’s stressful. COVID is stressful, it’s uncertain, and on top of that the expectations that we have for ourselves of providing outstanding care is really, really challenging and there are a lot of people that are very tired.”

According to Dr. Jeremy Hardison, Medical Director of Critical Care Services, ‘”I’ve had very young patients come through that have kids, that have loved ones, and seeing them go this, seeing families get torn apart by this disease has been extremely difficult for all of us and our community.”

The health care workers are sounding the alarm for just how serious of a situation the community is experiencing.

“Make no bones about it, this is a serious situation. And I was talking with someone recently who was saying, ‘well, if this is so serious then why aren’t we shutting down the community again? Shutting down businesses, etc?’ Personally, I think that ship has sailed,” said Dr. Michael Elliot, Senior Vice President and Chief Transformation Officer. “I think what has happened is the vaccine is available now, we have a way to combat this, and I don’t think whether it’s the federal or state government is going to step in and start closing down businesses and other parts of our community again. So, if anybody is waiting for that to happen, it’s not going to happen in my opinion. It’s because we have ways to prevent where we are right now and it’s called the vaccine.”

Last week, Centra announced the health system is requiring all of its 7,600 caregivers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Aug. 25, Dr. Elliot announced that at Centra 1,000 workers have gotten vaccinated so far. He also says the health system will open internal vaccine clinics starting next week.

“So we expect with that easy access we are going to see much of our staff take advantage of that,” Dr. Elliot said.

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