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Blount Memorial pausing inpatient elective surgeries, National Guard sent to help amid COVID surge

“This is not something that we have wanted to do, and we’ve been able to hold on longer than many hospitals in our state or region."

BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — Blount Memorial Hospital announced it is pausing inpatient elective surgeries starting Thursday, and the Tennessee National Guard will send members to support the hospital due to a rise in the number of COVID-19 patients it is treating.

The hospital said the pause is only for procedures that wouldn't negatively affect a person's health if not done immediately. It will continue to do outpatient surgeries, emergency or urgent surgeries, and cancer-related procedures as normal.

“This is not something that we have wanted to do, and we’ve been able to hold on longer than many hospitals in our state or region," Blount Memorial chief medical officer Dr. Harold Naramore said.  "However, as our number of COVID patients continues to climb – and we continue to see patients with other chronic health conditions that require a hospital stay – we feel that we must do this to continue caring for our community in the way our community needs us the most."

The Tennessee Department of Military announced later Thursday it had deployed more than 155 Tennessee National Guard soldiers and airmen to support 13 hospitals taking on a large number of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state, including Blount Memorial, UT Medical Center, and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. These members are helping hospitals in various units to free up health care professionals to work more effectively. 

Another 425 members are supporting 58 counties across the state with COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and administrative support for county health departments.  

UT Medical Center also announced it had to pause non-essential procedures to make room for COVID-19 patients.

"We are looking at all options to help us during the next several weeks," officials with UTMC said. "Our current environment requires us to rapidly adjust."

The Tennessee Department of Health's data shows children, teens and young adults are driving the recent surge in new cases. More than a third of the new cases reported in the past week were among people age 20 and under.

Statewide, a record number of patients are in the hospital for COVID-19 -- including 877 in the ICU and 552 on ventilators. East Tennessee regional hospitals also reported a record 154 COVID-19 patients in the ICU Thursday.