Northwestern Medicine hospitals reduce nonemergency surgeries, in-patient stays to preserve beds amid COVID-19 crush

Mercyhealth hospitals planned no major changes as of Tuesday

Northwestern Medicine hospitals are reducing nonemergency surgeries and procedures requiring in-patient stays to preserve bed capacity amid a crush of COVID-19 cases and diminishing statewide hospital space, a hospital system spokeswoman said.

The move to cut the number of surgeries and in-patient procedures being performed is also meant to maintain staffing levels and hospital resources, said Michelle Green, a spokeswoman for the health care system.

"All of our facilities remain open and are a safe place to provide and receive care. We encourage patients to continue to coordinate their medical care with their Northwestern Medicine providers," she said.

Green was not available late Wednesday to answer follow-up inquiries into the number of surgeries and in-patient care procedures being postponed for now or to discuss how much space the move would clear in area hospitals.

Northwestern operates hospitals in McHenry, Woodstock and Huntley.

Advocate Aurora Health, which runs 28 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin, is deferring half of its elective procedures that would result in short hospital stays, the Daily Herald reported Monday.

As of Tuesday, another area hospital operator, Mercyhealth, had not made any similar moves, although a leader of the health care system last week said the number of patients it was treating for COVID-19 was on the rise while admissions of patients with other ailments has also "increased in much higher numbers."

"We have no plans to change elective surgeries at this time," said Trish Reed, a spokeswoman for Mercyhealth, which has seven hospitals, including one in Harvard and another planned for Crystal Lake.

About 27% of medical and surgical hospital beds in McHenry County remained available as of Wednesday, according to McHenry County Department of Health data. That's above the 20% warning threshold state officials have set to recommend additional mitigations on business activity and gatherings.

Intensive care unit bed availability was well above the warning threshold at 56.7% and ventilator availability sat at 89.5%, the county data showed.

The county is faring better than the state as a whole with ventilator and intensive care capacity, according to state data posted Tuesday, which showed about 70% of ventilators in Illinois open and 30% of ICU beds.

Within McHenry County five out of the past 10 days have seen increases in hospital admissions, according to local health department data. A total of 96 hospital admissions occurred in the county for patients with COVID-19-like illness for the week ending Nov. 7, the last week for which the state health department has reported data.

Sam Lounsberry

Sam Lounsberry covers local government, business, K-12 education and all other aspects of life in McHenry County, in particular in the communities of Woodstock, McHenry, Richmond, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and Johnsburg.