Akron’s Summa Health cuts hospital beds, temporarily halt some elective procedures to deal with COVID-19 outbreak and staff shortage


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Akron’s Summa Health System on Monday announced plans to reduce bed capacity by more than 20% at its Akron and Barberton campuses, due to staff shortages and a increased demand for health services.

Some elective procedures in surgery, cardiology and interventional radiology will be temporarily halted, Summa said in a note sent to employees on Monday. Cancer-related procedures, emergency departments and outpatient surgery sites will not be affected.

Summa is also implementing changes to shorten hospital stays and move patients away from ERs by providing more care in doctor’s offices, freeing up hospital beds.

“We’re going to have to change the way we deliver care because we don’t have the staff to continue the historical models that we have used,” said Dr Mike Hughes, president of the Summa campus in Barberton.

The number of beds available on the Akron campus will increase from 439 to around 350, while the available beds on the Barberton campus will increase from 112 to around 80, Summa said.

The changes take effect immediately. The target date to achieve the 20% reduction in available beds is Sunday, October 24.

Staff shortages affecting US hospitals predate the COVID-19 pandemic and are expected to last long after the pandemic ends, said Dr Dave Custodio, president of Summa’s Akron City and St. Thomas campuses. Burnout has caused many caregivers to leave the field, and not enough new caregivers are entering the field.

The healthcare system realized it had to do things differently, to deal with this crisis during the current wave and after, Custodio said.

Across the healthcare system – including caregivers and non-caregivers – there is a 10% vacancy rate in staff positions, Custodio said.

Few of Summa employees have resigned due to the mask tenure Summa announced in August, Custodio said, although he did not give exact numbers.

Summa sees her response to the staff shortage as a chance to rethink how the hospital system works.

“This is an opportunity for us to accelerate change, not only at Summa but across the country, in the way we care for patients,” Custodio said.

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