LIMA — For the first time in nearly six weeks, hospitals will resume elective surgeries that have been on hold to conserve personal protective equipment and hospital beds as Ohio waited out its first wave of COVID-19 infections.
Physicians and outpatient surgery centers are now deciding whose cases take first priority.
And hospitals are re-evaluating some of their visitor restrictions and safety protocols as they get ready to see same-day outpatient surgery patients again.
“Even if it’s a same-day surgery, most of those people would undergo anesthetic,” said Dr. Dennis Morris, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer for Lima Memorial Health System. “They’ll need someone with them. We don’t want a large waiting room full of people waiting for their loved one. But we’re looking at mechanisms to do that and still have someone here to take them home and talk with their provider after the procedure is done.”
Lima Memorial has already instructed physicians within its network to contact patients whose surgeries were put on hold to determine whether this is a good time to proceed. Morris said those decisions will be based on patient needs and further guidance from the Ohio Department of Health.
But Morris said resuming normal operations will be a fluid process.
“Things may change from day to day,” he said. “No procedure is etched in stone at this point.”
Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center is making similar arrangements.
In a statement earlier this week, Mercy Health said it has formed a task force to determine how its hospitals can start performing these procedures safely in coordination with local and state health departments. Patients who have had surgeries deferred should contact their practice directly.
Hospitals have not performed elective surgeries since March 17, when Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton issued an order restricting non-emergency medical procedures.
An Ohio Hospital Association survey projects that hospitals may lose $1.34 billion per month collectively, an unintended irony of the pandemic fueled in part by the loss in revenue generated by elective procedures and affiliated services.
The order has been partially lifted, allowing dental and veterinary offices to reopen and hospitals to once again perform elective procedures, so long as they don’t require an overnight stay.
“I think elective surgeries is a misnomer,” said Steven Martin, professor and dean of the Rudolph H. Raabe College of Pharmacy at Ohio Northern University. “It doesn’t mean you can have it or not have it. It just means it’s not urgent.”
While elective surgeries are planned in advance — unlike emergency procedures — but they cover more than cosmetic procedures. Knee replacements and bariatric surgeries are elective, as are some tumor removals.
“It potentially prolonged pain and other life challenges that were going on,” Martin said.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.