Arizona resumes elective surgeries with new coronavirus protocols

May 1, 2020, 4:15 AM
(Getty Images/Chris McGrath)...
(Getty Images/Chris McGrath)
(Getty Images/Chris McGrath)

PHOENIX — Elective and outpatient surgeries resumed at Arizona hospitals and clinics on Friday.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order last month prohibiting elective surgeries in order to conserve personal protective equipment for use by medical workers treating coronavirus patients.

Last week, Ducey signed a new executive order allowing such surgeries to resume so long as measures outlined in the order are followed so as to protect the well-being of medical staff and patients.

Requirements for medical facilities to resume elective surgeries include implementing enhanced cleaning of waiting areas, a universal screening process for staff, patients, and visitors and prioritizing elective procedures based on medical urgency.

Ducey’s original action barring elective procedures brought a large variety of surgeries to a halt.

“Bariatrics, hernia repairs, removal of growths, lumps, bumps, etc., orthopedics with total knees, total shoulders and total hips,” Damon Brown, market president for Steward Health Care, told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Steward Health Care’s facilities include Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa, Florence Hospital, and St. Luke’s Hospital in Tempe.

Brown acknowledged such elective surgeries provide a lot of business for the hospital chain, adding that his his medical staff has taken a hit.

“We had to furlough staff,” he said. “With not doing cases, the hospitals have been pretty empty other than treating COVID-19.”

“And even with that, we’ve not had a tremendous amount of COVID-19 patients in this market.”

Steward said that the delay of elective surgeries caused some of his patients much pain.

“We’ve heard a lot of cases where patients have had to delay a surgery,” Brown said. “Perhaps it’s like a hip surgery where they’ve been in a wheelchair, or it’s not emergent but it’s a quality of life issue.”

Brown was among the healthcare professionals lobbying Gov. Ducey to restart elective surgeries on May 1 once it was determined medical facilities were adequately ready.

“We look at data almost hourly between supplies we have on hand, what the situation looks like in the market and if we’ll have an uptick in patients,” he said. “And we’ll adjust accordingly as we move forward. There may be another surge.”

In that case, hospitals would have to dial back elective and outpatient surgeries again. Going forward, Steward says every surgical patient will be tested for COVID-19.

“That takes place about 72 hours prior to surgery,” Brown explained. “When the patient arrives, they’ll have temperatures checked, and we’ll look for signs and symptoms before we start the procedure.”

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Arizona resumes elective surgeries with new coronavirus protocols