Tennessee hospitals can restart elective procedures today, and most are moving as soon as possible.
HCA TriStar facilities began surgeries deemed non-essential this morning, though they are following new precautions. Hospitals have removed magazines, toys and vending machines from waiting areas. Nurses caring for COVID-19 patients will also not work with non-COVID patients.
“These are cases that were previously scheduled and were postponed when we suspended elective surgeries,” spokesperson Lisa Gardi tells WPLN News. “We have a responsibility to safely provide the care these patients need to reduce harm and suffering.”
The ban on non-essential procedures, meant to conserve ventilators and protective gear, included elective cases like cosmetic or bariatric surgery. But also included were joint replacements and even many important screenings, like colonoscopies.
Retiree Tom Purkey of Mt. Juliet has one of the rescheduled procedures. It’s a biopsy of a slow-growing prostate cancer, which he doesn’t want put off any longer.
“I’m in a situation where I do have to look to make sure I’m taking care of myself with cancer versus the virus, so I have to weigh those two,” Purkey says. “And at this point, I prefer to move on.”
Hesitant To Return
Purkey says he trusts his doctors to keep him safe. But a national poll released today by Nashville-based public relations firm Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock found that patients are afraid to return to hospitals, even though they say their trust in medical professionals has increased during the pandemic.
VUMC says it’s taking “a careful approach” and resuming elective care only for patients under the age of 70. Also, everyone going under general anesthesia will be given a test for COVID-19.
Saint Thomas hospitals will restart elective procedures on Monday and also begin relaxing its ban on visitors.
“Although COVID-19 is still in our communities, we understand that individuals in our local communities have emergency and healthcare needs outside of COVID-19, many of which cannot be delayed or deferred without serious health risks,” Saint Thomas CEO Tim Adams said in a statement.
Statewide, hospitals estimate they lost half their monthly revenue because of both the ban on non-essential surgeries and people staying away from emergency rooms. Several major hospitals, including Cookeville Regional Medical Center, ended up furloughing hundreds of employees. CRMC’s CEO Paul Korth tells the Cookeville Herald those workers will be brought back on in phases as more and more procedures resume.