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Urgent elective surgeries remain on schedule

By MARK MARONEY

Special to The Express

WILLIAMSPORT — For those not sure if their elective surgeries amid the COVID-19 outbreak are getting done, it’s a good idea to call a healthcare provider.

That’s what Dr. David Lopatofsky, chief medical officer, UPMC Susquehanna, said.

The decisions are between doctor and patients and are becoming a balance of the health and safety of patients versus preservation of protective equipment, ventilators and respirators.

“We continue to serve our patients whose procedures our clinicians believe are not medically responsible to delay,” Lopatofsky said. “Balancing our patients’ ongoing clinical needs with the avoidance of unnecessary exposure requires a nuanced approach-not an across-the-board cancelling of clinics and procedures,” he said.

Some special circumstances may apply.

“We’re recommending that “elective” procedures for those who are at higher risk should be delayed only when it is clinically safe to do so, and we continue to serve our patients whose procedures our clinicians believe are not medically responsible to delay,” he said.

It’s a fluid situation, one changing by nearly daily.

“We continue to adapt our operations to the fluidity of the situation, and every surgery is evaluated within the context of numerous considerations — medical and logistical,” Lopatofsky said.

The outbreak isn’t over as the vaccine has yet to be discovered.

“Delaying some necessary care may result in more severe emergencies at a time that may be more challenging both for the patient and our providers,” Lopatofsky said.

UPMC regulations are aligned with Levine and the state Department of Health.

Dr. Al Casale, Geisinger chief medical officer for surgical services, said Geisinger has put non-urgent procedures on hold through April 2.

“This includes any procedure where a delay does not jeopardize the patient’s health or clinical outcome. Each patients’ circumstance is different,” Casale said.

What should people scheduled for surgeries do?

“Geisinger is proactively reaching out to patients regarding the status of their procedures. Non-urgent appointments may be rescheduled, or patients will be offered other care options, such as telephone or telemedicine visits,” Casale said.

What classification are elective surgeries. For example, a guy called suffering with a pre-existing condition and is scheduled for surgery and worried he might be rescheduled? What about colonoscopies and surgeries that are meant to detect life-saving measures?.

“Geisinger is performing all urgent surgeries,” Casale said “These include surgeries and procedures that need to be done because the patient’s circumstances demand treatment without delay. These include patients currently in the hospital and those coming in from home.”

Geisinger is not postponing, for example, cancer operations or any procedures on vital organs where the patient’s care team, including the surgeon, determines that delaying the procedure would cause the patient’s condition to deteriorate, Casale said.

“Although this COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a trying time for everyone, Geisinger is here to keep caring for our neighbors, including in our emergency rooms and operating rooms,” Casale said.

“At Geisinger, we follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention best practices and guidelines for infection control and prevention to ensure our facilities are always safe,” Casale said.

“There is no need to avoid our clinics,” he said.

Kendra Aucker, president and CEO at Evangelical Community Hospital, Lewisburg, said in a statement that elective surgeries were temorarily suspended during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Surgeries on the schedule are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis every day,” Aucker said.

Dr. Rachel Levine, state Secretary of Health, said — “Medical officials need to ensure that capacity in the areas of hospital beds, intensive care units and personal protective equipment remain high.”

Gov. Tom Wolf has not said critical surgeries should not be performed, critical care for cancer, heart valve replacements and hernia fixes remain on schedule.

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