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Bryan Health, with Lincoln hospitals full, delays elective surgeries again
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Bryan Health, with Lincoln hospitals full, delays elective surgeries again

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COVID-19 unit at Bryan Health

Staff talk outside a patient's room in a COVID-19 ICU unit at Bryan East Campus in December.

Bryan Health officials made a grim announcement Thursday regarding the health system's capacity.

"Bryan Medical Center is full," said Bob Ravenscroft, vice president of advancement for the Lincoln health-care system.

Because of its high patient numbers and trouble finding enough staff, Bryan this week decided to postpone certain elective surgeries.

Essentially, any elective surgery that requires an overnight stay, has not already been scheduled and can safely be postponed for 30 days will not be scheduled until further notice.

Outpatient surgeries are not affected, and any surgeries that were already scheduled will go forward, officials said.

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Bryan implemented the change Tuesday and already has seen results, said John Woodrich, president and CEO of Bryan Medical Center.

On that day, Bryan had 578 patients in its two hospitals and another 30 in the emergency rooms waiting for a bed. By Wednesday, that number dropped to 565, and Thursday, it was at 541.

The restrictions on elective surgeries, while providing temporary relief, are not a long-term solution to what Bryan officials said is likely to be the worst surge of patients of the whole pandemic.

"I truly believe these numbers are going to exceed what we saw last November," Woodrich said, noting he bases that on what has happened in other, mostly Southern states, that saw their current surges start several weeks earlier.

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Lancaster County saw its peak number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Nov. 29, when there were 168 people hospitalized for the disease. Current numbers are about half that.

Bryan on Thursday had 66 total COVID-19 patients, 61 of whom, or 91%, were not fully vaccinated against the disease. There were 17 patients in intensive care, 16 of them unvaccinated, and 15 on ventilators, 14 of whom were not vaccinated.

"Obviously, that's why we're continuing to encourage everyone to vaccinated," Ravenscroft said.

It also is making a number of other moves to try to increase room for patients.

Bryan already has four COVID-19 wards up and running again and expects it will open more. It is converting non-clinical space to overflow patient space and also is considering restricting visitors again as it did in the early months of the pandemic.

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And Bryan is converting adult patient units to pediatric units to deal with a surge in hospitalized children, mostly because of illnesses other than COVID-19, including RSV.

Ravenscroft said the "good news" is that Bryan currently has no children hospitalized with COVID-19 and its overall number of pediatric patients has declined to 11 on Thursday, down from as high as 18 last week.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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