Louisiana Doctors Cancel Brain Aneurysm Surgeries to Deal With Influx of COVID Patients

A number of health experts have described the dangerous and deadly effect the Delta variant of COVID-19 is having in the state of Louisiana, including how doctors are being forced to cancel key surgeries to free up space for those suffering from the virus.

Michele Sutton, CEO of North Oaks Health System located in Hammond, Louisiana, spoke of how hospitals are struggling to cope with the fourth wave of COVID infections as there is not enough space for patients and dozens of staff members are testing positive for the virus.

Sutton spoke along with several public health experts and doctors during a press conference on Monday explaining why they are backing Governor John Bel Edwards' plans to reinstate a statewide mask mandate.

Sutton said that the hospital has also had to discontinue elective surgeries so they could turn their recovery room into a third Intensive Care Unit in order to deal with the demand of COVID cases.

Sutton said because of this, doctors are currently having to decide which people can or cannot have their surgeries as planned. Sutton gave one example in which a man was told "we can't fix your brain aneurysm tomorrow, like we had hoped" because they didn't have a critical care bed to put him in after he came out of surgery.

All Louisiana residents over the age of five, even if they have been vaccinated, will now be required to cover their faces while indoors in public places until at least September 1 unless they are exempt.

The move arrives as the state deals with its worst surge of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of case growth rate, percent positivity and hospitalizations, as the Delta variant continues to spread through Louisiana and the rest of the country.

"When I got up this morning, the first thing I did was look to see how many COVID positive patients I have in our small community hospital. We had 89," Sutton said.
"I had 13 patients in the [Emergency Department] waiting for a bed, 10 of which were COVID positive."

As well as the patients, Sutton said they have had to ask for help from other hospitals because they currently have 62 staff members unable to work because they have COVID.

"We have beds, but we don't have people to serve them. Right now. 50 percent of our patients are COVID positive inside our facility," Sutton added.

Sutton said that staff are also "demoralized" because they believed the current COVID surge could have been preventable if everyone wore masks and received the vaccination.

"This morning, we had a 24-year-old die of COVID, unvaccinated. This was preventable. In the last two weeks, we've had 14 deaths, most between 24 and 55 years old."

Sutton added that even though North Oaks is currently in diversion, meaning they are asking for ambulances not to come to them and instead take patients to another hospital.

"So when I'm making rounds, it's not uncommon to see five, six stretchers lining up in our emergency room hallway [...]," Sutton said.

In a statement, Paul Salles, president and CEO of the Louisiana Hospital Association, reiterated that the mask mandate is needed again in the state as he urged people to get the vaccination to protect them and others.

"As Louisiana once again faces another COVID-19 wave being fueled by the Delta variant, the demand being placed on hospitals across the state is simply unsustainable," Salles said.

"The Louisiana Hospital Association, along with many of our hospitals and health systems, continues to promote the use of mitigation measures, such as the use of face coverings indoors, social distancing, limiting the size of indoor gatherings, and most importantly, getting vaccinated."

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, there were 11,109 new cases over the weekend, with 27 deaths and 1,984 people hospitalized with COVID.

Officials said unvaccinated people currently account for 90 percent of new COVID cases, and 85 percent of deaths, between July 15 and 21.

 Louisiana covid
(File photo) Members of the media tour the field hospital setup for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on April 04, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Officials have said they are canceling surgeries in Louisiana in order to cope with the rise of new COVID cases. Chris Graythen/Getty Images