Elective surgery scheduled? What should you do?


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — You may have a medical procedure scheduled in the coming days and wondering what to do. Let’s say you’re supposed to head to the hospital for knee surgery or a hip replacement, should you?

To be honest, some of the messaging is mixed but ultimately it’s going to come down to the hospital or facility and conversations with your doctor. The nation’s top doctor, Surgeon General Jerome Adams has urged hospitals to halt elective surgeries to make space for a flood of potential coronavirus patients.

“What you have heard a lot of people talking about is the need to flatten the curve,” Adams said. “It’s what you saw the American College of Surgeons, the CDC and even I working with the American Hospital Association and others to pull down elective surgeries.”

VCU Health told 8News on Wednesday that the facility plans to make changes to non-urgent, elective surgeries.

Effective immediately, VCU Health is making updates to most elective surgeries, procedures and appointments at VCU Health System hospitals and clinics. We are taking this step to protect our patients, slow the spread of COVID-19 and increase our ability to care for those with emergency medical needs. For further information, visit this page.

We will share additional information about operational changes as they become available at vcuhealth.org/covid-19.”

VCU Health statement

On Thursday, Bon Secours shared a statement with 8News explaining that they will follow guidelines to delay elective surgeries.

“Bon Secours is following the guidance of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the U.S. Surgeon General, as well as all state and federal guidelines. We support these guidelines and we are working with our clinical teams and patients to implement this change,” the statement read. “We are contacting impacted patients directly. Our decisions are based on safeguarding the health of our patients, associates and the communities we serve.”

The American College of Surgeons issued recommendations saying in part, “Each hospital, health system, and surgeon should thoughtfully review all scheduled elective procedures with a plan to minimize, postpone, or cancel electively scheduled operations, endoscopies, or other invasive procedures until we have passed the predicted inflection point in the exposure graph and can be confident that our health care infrastructure can support a potentially rapid and overwhelming uptick in critical patient care needs.” 

However, the American Hospital Association worries about what is classified as elective. Julian Walker with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association explained, “The guidance that has come from the surgeon general regarding elective surgeries that is important guidance but it also has to be evaluated in light of the situation at any particular hospital and the patient needs at that particular hospital.”

Elective in the medical community means a procedure that has been scheduled rather than in response to an emergency.  Yet, that could include life sustaining surgeries like a heart valve replacements or the removal of a cancerous tumor.

“If you are in a medical situation that is time sensitive and that is not something that can be put off,  that is going to fall into a different category,” Walker said.

8News reached out to hospitals in Central Virginia. HCA Virginia provided a statement to 8News:

We have well established protocols in place to care for patients with infectious diseases, and we have been working diligently in our preparations for COVID-19. Part of our response includes balancing our readiness to care for patients with COVID-19 while continuing to make sure the many other patients who depend on our hospitals receive needed and timely care. We believe decisions regarding scheduled procedures should be determined by a number of factors, including the urgency of the procedure, the clinical judgement of our physicians as well as the current circumstances in the facility and the community. Our COVID-19 preparedness efforts include reinforcing infection prevention protocols and guidance from the CDC, sourcing necessary supplies and equipment, and emergency planning, so our hospitals are prepared to safely meet the needs of all of our patients and protect the health and well-being of our colleagues.”

HCA Virginia statement

The best advice right now if you have questions is to contact your healthcare provider. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association stresses this is a fluid situation and that they are doing regular evaluations.

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