Mar 24, 2020 9:01 AM

Most KC-area hospitals put off elective surgeries to prepare for COVID-19

Posted Mar 24, 2020 9:01 AM
The University of Kansas Health System has postponed elective surgeries to prepare for an influx of coronavirus patients. KU Hospital
The University of Kansas Health System has postponed elective surgeries to prepare for an influx of coronavirus patients. KU Hospital

Kansas News Service

As the coronavirus continues its relentless spread, hospitals are making tough decisions about postponing or canceling elective procedures.

Earlier this week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommended that providers consider a range of factors in determining whether to postpone surgery or other procedures. They include patient risk, urgency of the procedure, bed availability, staffing and the availability of personal protective equipment.

“The reality is clear and the stakes are high: we need to preserve personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of this fight,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement Wednesday.

The University of Kansas Health System, which operates the area’s largest hospital, has indefinitely postponed all elective procedures.

“It’s part of our conservation efforts to make sure that we have enough supplies,” said spokeswoman Jill Chadwick. “And it's to help protect patients whose annual check-up, etc., can wait. We know social distancing works and we are assessing everyday how to do our part.”  

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Steve Stites, KU’s chief medical officer, said the hospital’s operating rooms were currently operating at about 25% capacity because most elective procedures had been canceled or deferred.

He said KU had prioritized cases into three tiers: ones that can readily be postponed, such as cosmetic surgery; ones with a risk of harm, where the physician and patient need to make an informed decision about what the relative harm and risk may be; and ones that can't be postponed.

“So cases that you have to do are cancer surgery,” Stites said. “You can’t let the tumor grow.”

Stites said the measures were being taken to conserve personal protective equipment in the expectation of an influx of COVID-19 patients in coming weeks.

“We're trying to conserve as much as we can right now for the eventual rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 patients inside the hospital,” Stites said. “And that’s the reason we've been holding back surgery, in order to preserve our personal protective equipment.”

At Saint Luke’s Health System, another large hospital network, elective procedures are being deferred, although what constitutes “elective” in some cases is being left to physicians’ discretion.

“We are deferring all cases that can be safely deferred,” spokeswoman Laurel Gifford said. “Some technically elective procedures are still medically necessary so our physicians and surgeons are reviewing them on a case-by-case basis. But I think it’s safe to say that all cases that are not required at this point and where it’s in the best interests of the patient, are being rescheduled and deferred to a later date.”

HCA Midwest Health, the largest hospital operator in the Kansas City area, said it’s following CMS’ guidelines but also deferring to the clinical judgment of its physicians.

“Our COVID-19 preparedness efforts include reinforcing infection prevention protocols and guidance from the CDC, sourcing necessary supplies and equipment, and emergency planning, so our hospitals are prepared to safely meet the needs of all of our patients and protect the health and well-being of our colleagues,” HCA spokeswoman Christine Hamele said.

Safety-net hospital Truman Medical Centers is postponing “anything that’s true elective surgery,” according to spokeswoman Leslie Carto.

“There are some, like a malignancy that can possibly wait but they have the diagnosis, those are being done. But anything truly elective – those are being canceled,” Carto said.

At least one local healthcare provider, AdventHealth System, which operates AdventHealth Shawnee Mission (formerly known Shawnee Mission Medical Center), has not postponed elective procedures.

“We haven’t told (physicians) that they need to cancel things. I will tell you that’s something that’s being reviewed daily and that position can change,” Adventist spokeswoman Morgan Shandler said.

At the top of its website, AdventHealth posted this notice: “While preventing the spread of COVID-19 and treating COVID-19 patients is of highest priority in our community, we recognize that we have many patients with medical needs unrelated to COVID-19 that still need addressed. At this time, AdventHealth Shawnee Mission has not cancelled or delayed scheduled procedures. However, individual physicians are reviewing their scheduled cases and may opt to postpone elective cases that are not time sensitive. If your case will be postponed, your physician’s office will contact you directly. We will continue to update this policy as the situation with COVID-19 evolves.”

Dan Margolies is a senior reporter and editor at KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Continue Reading JC Post
Mar 24, 2020 9:01 AM
UPDATE: What Kansans need to know about the COVID-19 coronavirus
Health officials say one way to stop the spread of the new coronavirus is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas News Service

The new coronavirus is spreading quickly around the world, including across Kansas, and setting off a range of responses.

The Kansas News Service is boiling down key developments in the state and updating the status regularly here. To read this information in Spanish, go here. This list was last updated at 2:10 p.m. March 31.


430 cases, including two from out of state (see map for counties)

9 deaths (4 in Wyandotte County, 3 in Johnson County, 1 each in Sedgwick and Crawford counties)

NOTE: These figures only include cases confirmed with lab tests and do not represent the real, unknown total. Community transmission is occurring in parts of Kansas.


Gov. Laura Kelly is instituting a statewide stay-at-home order as of 12:01 a.m. March 30. It will last until at least April 19. Stay-at-home orders allow people to take care of essential activities (such as grocery shopping or going to work) as well as exercise outside, but otherwise keep to themselves. 

The state’s stay-at-home order supersedes at least 13 county-by-county orders. Should the state’s order lift before a county’s is through, the county can choose to keep its own in effect.


For the whole state: The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is now mandating home quarantine for 14 days if you've traveled to the places listed below. If you come down with symptoms (such as a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, coughing or shortness of breath) during those 14 days, contact your health care provider and explain your potential COVID-19 exposure.  

  1. Louisiana or anywhere in Colorado on or after March 27.
  2. States with known widespread community transmission (California, Florida, New York and Washington) on or after March 15.
  3. Illinois or New Jersey on or after March 23.
  4. Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties in Colorado (if your visit was March 8th or later).
  5. Cruise ships or river cruises on or after March 15. Anyone previously told to quarantine because of their cruise ship travel should also finish out their quarantine.
  6. International destinations on or after March 15. Anyone previously told to quarantine because of their international travel should also finish out their quarantine.


As of March 27, Kansas health secretary Lee Norman said the state lab was handling 175 samples a day. But Kansas will receive more equipment within about a week that will let it handle 700 to 1,000 samples daily, though shortages of specialized supplies such as nose swabs may still hamper work at times. 

Norman said there’s enough capacity in the state, now that testing has ramped up through commercial labs and hospitals. State testing is reserved for high-risk groups, such as sick nursing home residents and health care workers. Others can ask their doctor or nurse practitioner to order through private labs.

What Kansas still lacks is enough testing material to study COVID-19 rates among people without symptoms.


It gives the state government more power to marshal resources and triggers the state's response plan. The state Legislature has extended Kelly's declaration through May (and can extend it), with the aim of giving her the ability to make certain decisions when lawmakers aren’t in session.

On March 22, Kelly eased state rules to expand the use of telemedicine, to temporarily license more health workers and to allow heavier trucks on Kansas highways hauling relief supplies. On March 23, she ordered a ban on evictions if a tenant was unable to pay because of the coronavirus crisis. And she extended the income tax filing deadline to July 15, in line with a delay for filing federal tax forms.


K-State, University of Kansas and Wichita State: All of them will go fully online for the end of the school year. Students at K-State and KU will need special exemptions to remain in dorms.

Other colleges: Washburn and Fort Hays State are online. Newman University expanded spring break for two weeks (March 14 to March 29). Johnson County Community College will close campus from March 14-29, and all courses will restart online March 30. Pittsburg State started break a day early and will resume classes indefinitely online on March 30.


Gov. Laura Kelly and Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson have shut down all K-12 schools, public, private and parochial, for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. They had initially issued a strong recommendation that schools close March 16 through 20. 

Some county health departments had already issued similar orders. 

A Kansas State Department of Education task force has issued guidance to school districts on how to continue some amount of student learning. 


The governor’s executive order temporarily banning landlords from evicting businesses or residential tenants is effective until May 1. That same order put in a moratorium on any mortgage foreclosures through the same period.

The governor mandated on March 23, through an executive order, that gatherings be restricted to less than 10 people.

Kansas state workers: Access to the Statehouse is limited to official business only, and lawmakers went on break early. Kelly wanted most state employees to stay home for at least two weeks starting March 23.

State prisons: The Kansas Department of Corrections ended visitation at all state facilities, and will “re-evaluate on an ongoing basis.” It urges families to talk to inmates through email, phone calls and video visits. 

Electric companies: Evergy, which serves 950,000 customers in Kansas, will not disconnect residential or business services for an unspecified amount of time due to the “unprecedented challenge” of coronavirus that “may result in customers facing unexpected or unusual financial strain.”

Casinos: All four state-owned gaming facilities will close at the end of business on March 17, and remain so until at least March 30.

Public events: Many events and public places around the state have been canceled until at least the end of March. 

Sports: The Kansas State High School Athletics Association canceled the state basketball tournament midway through it. And the Big 12 suspended spring sports until March 29.  


COVID-19 usually causes mild to moderate symptoms, like a fever or cough. Most people with mild symptoms recover in two weeks. More severe cases, found in older adults and people with health issues, can have up to six weeks’ recovery time or can lead to death.


  1. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Frequently.
  2. Cover your coughs.
  3. If you’re an older Kansan or medically fragile, put off any vacations and limit your trips to the grocery store or any public space.
  4. Stay home if you are sick — this goes for all ages.


Kansas Department of Health and Environment:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.