File Photo – Gov. J.B. Pritzker | Provided Photo

Governor JB Pritzker and hospital leaders issued a joint statement urging hospitals to pause non-emergency surgeries to maintain hospital capacity as COVID-19 cases surge.

Pritzker and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association said Thursday that they are urging hospitals to “take every possible measure” to maintain and expand bed capacity, including postponing non-emergency surgeries and other procedures as needed.

The state and hospitals throughout Illinois are continuing to work in concert to prevent the state’s healthcare infrastructure from being overwhelmed by the ongoing Omicron variant surge of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, the governor’s office said.

Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) data shows that hospital admissions are rapidly increasing and ICU bed capacity is decreasing.

Holiday gatherings are anticipated to drive an increase in the coming weeks, placing an additional strain on Illinois’ hospitals and healthcare workers, the governor’s office said.

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“We are preparing for a continuing post-holiday surge, and with hospital staff already working so hard, I appreciate the work hospital leadership is doing to assure capacity, including postponing non-emergency surgeries and procedures to ensure their ability to handle serious COVID cases and other emergencies without putting patients at risk,” Pritzker said.

“To all Illinoisans: please understand that the nation is experiencing high COVID transmission rates, and some surgeries in Illinois will be postponed. We’re asking our residents to temporarily hold off on important medical care like tonsillectomies, bariatric surgeries and hernia repair. As we work to keep ICU beds open, I continue to applaud the efforts of our hospitals and healthcare workers across the state, who have been heroes for us all,” Pritzker added.

IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Illinois hospitals are seeing approximately 500 new COVID-19 patient admissions a day and approximately 90% of those are unvaccinated.

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“There is a health care worker shortage in Illinois, in the U.S., and across the world. We’re seeing health care workers leave the profession because they are burnt out after watching people suffer severe illness and even death for almost two years now. We want to make sure that there is a hospital bed available for anyone for any reason – cancer complications, appendicitis, stroke, heart attack, car crash, or COVID-19,” Ezike said.

In an effort to increase staffing to ensure care is available, the governor extended state waivers to allow out-of-state healthcare professionals to work in Illinois.

The State of Illinois has invited hospitals to participate in its staffing contract so that they can bring in additional available staff when needed to ensure capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.

Pritzker also said he supports hospitals and healthcare facilities that choose to implement new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance accelerating return-to-work timeframes.

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The Pritzker administration said they are seeking federal assistance to address healthcare staffing shortages.