Dozens of elective surgeries postponed due to hospital ‘capacity’ issues

Patients told that nursing shortage to blame for delay
Dozens of elective surgeries postponed due to hospital ‘capacity’ issues
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 2:06 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Gary Rumbolo has been waiting for relief since December. He was T-boned after another driver ran a red light, and the impact from the accident aggravated a previous neck injury.

Rumbolo, a Marine Corps veteran, first had to jump through hoops at the VA to get an MRI and other tests to analyze the injury. Then he had to wait to get an appointment with a surgeon, who said he’d need an operation to fuse the disks in his spine.

The surgery was originally scheduled to take place two months ago, but a scheduling conflict between the neurosurgeon and the ear, nose and throat surgeon pushed the operation back to July 28. After going to his pre-op appointment this week, Rumbolo got a call from his doctor’s office saying the surgery was off.

“I’m expecting a phone call yesterday to tell me what time to show up for the surgery. And I get a phone call from Dr. Melin’s office, [saying] all surgery has been canceled because of short staff at the hospital,” Rumbolo told WECT.

He is in obvious discomfort due to pinched nerves, and says due to the pain, he has been unable to work at his job as a home remodeler since the accident. Rumbolo is frustrated that the doctor’s office wasn’t even able to give him a new date for when they might be able to reschedule the procedure he hopes will give him some relief.

He said all he knows is that all surgeries at the hospital other than those to treat life-threatening conditions have been put on hold until August 15.

“I’m just livid. Because it’s the hospital. It’s not the surgeons, they’re doing all they can. Doctors in this town are limited by this hospital, because they don’t want to pay for the nursing staff. They let go all the travel nurses because they don’t want to pay their fees. And the nurses here are leaving because the benefits and everything aren’t there anymore,” Rumbolo said.

Novant Health has confirmed they are working to reduce their reliance on travel nurses, but they do still have many on staff while they look to fill openings with full-time employees. A spokesperson for Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center provided WECT with the following statement Thursday in response to our questions about elective surgeries being postponed:

“We proactively decided to reschedule 26 surgical cases over the next week that would have required an overnight stay. We made this decision in part to help increase capacity due to demands of patients coming through the Emergency Department, which can see spikes in volume in the summer months as our region’s population swells. We also see more traumatic injury patients from across the region that need emergent surgery. For context, the affected cases represent less than 3% of our weekly surgical patients. We understand these delays aren’t ideal for impacted patients, but we appreciate our surgeons for making case-by-case decisions to ensure we are best prepared to meet the needs of the community.”

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