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TROY, Mo —  Two of Saint Louis’ biggest hospital systems in Saint Louis are postponing and rescheduling elective procedures, as COVID-19 cases in the area soar. Both BJC Healthcare and SSM Health made the decision Wednesday, which affects close to 40 hospitals in the area. 

“It’s really hard when you don’t know what the next step is going to be,” said Scott Mueller.

Mueller’s wife, April, was diagnosed with appendix and colon cancer in December of 2021. She was supposed to have a colonoscopy and colon surgery in a couple of weeks at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Peters. Mueller got the news Wednesday that both procedures would likely be postponed.

“They said less than a 10% chance that her surgery would happen. You’re dealing with that and it’s just difficult. You can’t schedule anything — You can’t plan. It’s just really rough,” Mueller said.

BJC Healthcare announced Wednesday it would postpone all elective procedures starting Thursday, January 6th, until further notice. BJC said it expects an influx of about 220 agency nurses in the next two weeks and says postponing elective surgeries will provide some staffing relief as those individuals are reassigned elsewhere.

SSM Health also announced it would be rescheduling elective procedures on a case-by-case basis.
“The crush is happening in our community. The inn is full there’s no safe harbor,” said Dr. Clay Dunagan, BJC Healthcare’s Chief Clinical Officer. 

Dunagan is also part of The Saint Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force. The task force held a briefing Wednesday, saying the postponement of elective procedures is largely due to the more than 1100 COVID patients overloading the hospital systems.

“So, we know that the surge from Covid means there’s going to be more people suffering from heart attacks and strokes and cancer cases that could’ve been treated earlier or even prevented,” explained Dr. Alex Garza, SSM’s Chief Community Health Officer. 

“I have to give credit to the staff and nurses. They were great and they were just as upset as I was. They have zero control over this,” Mueller said.

Mueller says he and his wife are now traveling all the way to Rochester, Minnesota to seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic there.

“We will have all that extra travel and expense. We can manage. It’s not fun but, we’re going to get it done. But there are some folks that it wouldn’t be an option, and I really feel for them,” Mueller said.

The task force says it’s still unclear how long elective procedures will be postponed and will depend on monitoring the peak of case rates, which could take at least a month, if not longer.