As elective surgeries return, patients remain wary, slow to return

Reporter: Veronica Marshall
Published: Updated:

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of elective surgeries, it left patients with certain medical conditions in a lurch and unable to get the surgeries they needed.

But now, as the state reopens, those surgeries are being scheduled again health care leaders say they’re following new procedures to keep everyone safe.

From knee and hip replacements to cardiovascular surgery and colonoscopies –Gulf Coast Medical Center emergency department doctor Larry Hobbs says, for some, elective surgeries are anything but, “If you’ve developed cancer and the best treatment is to remove the cancer, that’s considered elective surgery.”

And now that they’re back, R.D. Williams is the CEO of Hendry Regional Medical Center and says you can expect a lot of changes.

“About half of our capacity now is dedicated to negative pressure rooms where isolation cases are housed. And so any air that circulates in that space is directly exhausted from the facility, it is not intermixed with the heating and air conditioning for the rest of the facility,” Williams explained.

He added, “One of the more significant things is you have to be able to procure your own protective equipment on your own – you can’t rely on the emergency operations centers in each county to supply you with PPE for your employees.”

Patients at Hendry Regional will also be tested for the coronavirus before their surgeries, at their own cost.

In many cases, insurance will cover the expense, but you need to ask in advance.

Williams said they’re also working to have the ability to perform rapid tests in-house at the medical center.

Experts say they hope the benefits of resuming elective surgeries don’t end there.

At Hendry Regional, Williams says, they have seen a “tremendous reduction in volume in our emergency department.”

Dr. Hobbs has a warning though; “… People are hurting themselves by staying home and waiting it out…”

They hope more patients will start feeling comfortable coming back to the ER to get help as soon as they need it.

Lee Health tells us since it resumed elective surgeries last week, doctors have done about 165 surgeries a day.

The health care system says it’s up to the surgeon if they want to order a COVID-19 test for their patient.

That cost is then passed on to the patient’s insurance.

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