Emory to postpone elective surgeries amid coronavirus outbreak

Medical personnel walk the campus at Emory Hospital in November 2019. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Medical personnel walk the campus at Emory Hospital in November 2019. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Editor’s note: Updated with additional comment from Emory Healthcare. 

One of metro Atlanta’s largest health care groups is postponing elective surgeries for the next two weeks as the system confronts increasing patient demands amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Emory Healthcare said Sunday it will postpone “all inpatient and outpatient elective surgical and procedural cases,” starting Monday. Procedural cases include such things as colonoscopies. After two weeks, Emory Healthcare said it will evaluate week-to-week.

“We are currently contacting all patients and their physicians to alert them of this decision and to offer our support during this time when their cases are being postponed,” a company statement said. “While we adhere to the most stringent protocols to ensure infection prevention, we are taking this step to protect our patients and are working to support and preserve supplies, equipment and staffing for the most urgent and time-sensitive patient needs.”

Emory Healthcare later added in a statement, “We hope the community will understand and join us in working together to address this public health crisis.”

Emory Healthcare operates 10 hospitals, including Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown, and numerous outpatient facilities across metro Atlanta.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Saturday declared a state public health emergency. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose Sunday to 99.

Schools across the region are closed and officials have urged residents to practice social distancing to help mitigate the spread of the virus, which so far has claimed the life of one Georgian.

In addition to freeing up practitioners and clinic space, the move by Emory will also allow protective equipment such as gloves, gowns and masks to be used elsewhere within the system.

Also on Sunday, Piedmont Healthcare, which operates 11 hospitals, said it would restrict visitors to no more than two per patient, and visitors would undergo health screenings to protect patients and employees.

Tents are set up behind Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta. Photos: Jennifer Brett, jbrett@ajc.com

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In Marietta, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter observed that tents and a mobile medical unit were set up behind Kennestone Hospital.

Senior editor Jennifer Brett contributed to this report.