INDIANAPOLIS — During an update on Thursday, officials at Indiana University Health said they are discussing plans to restart elective surgeries as early as next week.

“Now we’re going to have to start slowly, because we still have a significant COVID burden,” said Dr. Paul Calkins, associate chief medical executive at IU Health. “We only have a limited capacity, and it’s going to take us a while to ramp back up to serve all these folks that are waiting for us but we’re hoping to get to everybody as quickly as we can.”

Officials at IU Health estimated there are thousands of elective surgeries that are currently being delayed or postponed. IU Health said those non-urgent surgeries have been on hold since August – nearly six months.

Dr. Calkins said the health system is still determining which Hoosiers would get priority when elective surgeries do resume.

“It’s a bit of a judgment call and, again, it’s going to vary by location because the mixture of people who are waiting is different in each of our locations,” said Dr. Calkins. “Certainly, even within the elective categories, you can do some sub-categorization of things that you’d really kind of need to get done first… whether you need an ICU bed versus not, or whether you can go home, all of those factors are part of sort of a balancing act.”

As of Thursday, a total of 567 Hoosiers are currently battling COVID-19 across all 16 hospitals in the IU Health system. Officials also said January is expected to be one of the deadliest months for COVID-19 across the health system.

“About 70% of our inpatients are not vaccinated, and that number goes much higher as you get into the intensive care and ventilated patients – it’s closer to 90%,” said Dr. Chris Weaver, chief clinical officer at IU Health.

“As of today, in January of 2022, IU Health has had 274 people die of COVID-19 in our hospitals. That’s the same number of people that died in December of 2020, which previously had been the largest number of deaths we’ve ever experienced in a single month,” said Dr. Calkins. “Unfortunately January is not done so we do expect that this will be an unfortunate record setter for deaths in our IU Health hospitals.”

Still, Dr. Weaver said there is a silver lining: COVID19 hospitalizations are trending downward. The 567 COVID19 inpatients currently at IU Health is down from the system’s peak of about 640.

“There’s no reason to expect that our inpatient census isn’t going to continue to decline and hopefully relatively quickly,” said Dr. Calkins.