Hospitals cancel surgeries, ration care as influx of coronavirus patients continues

NEW YORK (WPIX/CNN) - The flood of coronavirus patients has forced hospitals across the country to make some difficult choices as nonemergency surgeries and procedures are being canceled and patient care is being rationed.

One of those patients is Marlee Baxter, who was born with half a heart and has had three open heart surgeries before her second birthday.

Recently her mom, Jolene Baxter, realized Marlee, now 3, is not getting enough oxygen.

Marlee’s doctors ordered a heart catheterization to figure out what’s wrong, but Jolene says the hospital has called and canceled it. And she had no idea when it’ll happen.

“I haven’t heard from them at all. It is very frightening,” Jolene Baxter said.

With so many medical resources being diverted to the coronavirus, doctors are having to make choices about who gets care and who does not.

“We have had to ration care … we have had to make decisions that I personally have never had to contemplate before,” stated a letter obtained by CNN from the head of the pediatric heart surgery program at Columbia University.

In dozens of states, governors have ordered temporary stops on non-emergency procedures because of the coronavirus. For many people, such as those with chronic disease or acute illnesses, those procedures, surgeries and tests are crucial for them to manage their health.

It leaves patients like Marlee, who lives in Oklahoma, without the care they need.

“We have to make sure we don’t lose track of the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of Americans who are suffering silently because of the impact of COVID on our health care system,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Back at Marlee's house, she and her mom make masks for nurses as they wait for the pandemic to end.

“I’m just sitting here wondering when we’re going to get this done and just pray that she stays healthy until we get it done,” the mother said.

It looks like it will be months, not weeks, before life in the U.S. can return to normal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending authorities wait for a four-week decrease in deaths and hospitalizations before relaxing social distancing.

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