By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Some hospitals across California are rescheduling elective surgeries to prioritize coronavirus patients.

To clear hospital space for the sickest COVID-19 patients, the state’s public health officer has issued an order that now requires non-essential and non-life-threatening surgeries to be delayed in counties with the lowest ICU capacities, which includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

State health authorities stress that necessary procedures, such as those involving the heart or cancer removal surgeries will not be affected.

RELATED: EMTs Enduring Long Wait Times With Patients Outside Hospitals During Pandemic

According to Dr. Nancy Gin, the Regional Director of Quality for Kaiser Permanente Southern California, they began canceling and postponing non-urgent surgeries in December.

She believes this helps out with staffing issues and also benefits patients whose elective surgeries would have required a hospital stay.

“With 80% of our hospital volumes devoted to covid care, we really would prefer not to have people who are healthy otherwise exposed to that environment,” Gin said. “The biggest issue for all of us right now is staffing… We suspended the non-urgent cases for surgery and then can re-direct that personnel to help out with either the ambulatory setting or in the hospitals where they’re needed more.”

The order will remain in effect for at least three weeks and will continue until canceled.