Amid the ongoing COVID-19 surge around Georgia, Emory Healthcare postponed some elective surgeries this week due to a shortage of beds and continues to daily evaluate elective surgical cases across the system, the hospital system said.

The drastic measure of postponing elective surgeries amid the pandemic has not happened since the previous surge in winter. Emory bills itself as the “most extensive health care system in Georgia” with 11 hospitals and more than 250 provider locations.

“Emory Healthcare is evaluating elective surgical cases on a daily basis across all our hospitals and outpatient centers to determine if a case needs to be rescheduled, based on the patient’s health and hospital capacity,” Emory said in a statement to GPB News. “We are taking all necessary safety measures and precautions to care for all of our patients during this latest COVID-19 surge.”

Emory added that it's had to “postpone some elective surgeries due to an increase in patient volume driven by the COVID-19 surge.”

The statement went on to say that the hospital system encourages “everyone in our community to support our health care providers by getting vaccinated and wearing masks in indoor public settings” as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hospitals around the state have reported being overwhelmed with the highly contagious delta variant spreading through unvaccinated communities.

In a memo seen by GPB News, a member of Emory St. Joseph’s leadership team sent out a note earlier this week, saying the hospital “has reached a point this evening where hospital leadership feels it necessary to prepare patients, surgeons, and staff of the real possibility of canceling surgeries.”

The measure was being considered, the memo said, “because there are not enough beds within the hospital to accommodate.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health on Thursday also stressed the dire situation around the state, saying the “current surge of COVID cases throughout Georgia is stretching hospital and EMS personnel and resources to unprecedented levels.”

“As a result, many hospitals are having to declare themselves on diversion meaning they are temporarily unable to provide normal emergency care to patients arriving by ambulance,” agency spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said in a statement. “Diversion is a term specific to ambulance transports and is a request to ambulances to transport patients to other local facilities if possible.”

Nydam added that diversion does not apply to those seeking emergency care, and she urged people experiencing an emergency to still call 911.

Dr. Jodie Guest, the vice chair of Emory University’s Department of Epidemiology, shared a thread on Twitter about the need to reduce the burden on emergency rooms and EMS workers.

“Please recognize that any of us may have our unexpected health care needs at risk due to the COVID-19 surge in GA,” she tweeted. “Please recognize that a lot of people need routine medical care and our hospitals are struggling mightily.”

Emory’s Dr. Carlos del Rio, one of the state’s top infectious disease doctors, added, “It’s a mess! If you simply want a COVID test, please don’t come to the ED of your local hospital. Find a community testing site or get a home COVID test.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Brian Kemp said he was sending more than 100 members of the Georgia National Guard to various hospitals around the state to "make sure Georgia hospitals have the resources they need." 

But despite the current surge, the governor has repeatedly maintained he will not lock the state down or impose a statewide mask mandate. 

Health officials continue to urge Georgians to get vaccinated and wear masks to curb the ongoing transmission of disease. 

"The vaccine mandates have worked in the past, and we know that they're working to protect our health care facilities," Dr. Aneesh Mehta, an infectious disease expert with Emory University School of Medicine, said this week. "Most importantly, whichever reason people choose to get the vaccine, it will help us open up our economy. It will help keep our kids in school and help us on this."