SALT LAKE CITY – Hospitals in Utah are preparing to resume elective surgeries.
The procedures were halted in March to keep people home and save medical resources at the onset of the COVID-19 fight.
Tuesday, the state announced it is ending that restriction.
“We have seen a downward trend, an appropriate downward trend in new hospitalizations [of COVID-19],” said Dr. Arlen Jarrett of Steward Healthcare.
Dr. Jarrett was one of several doctors representing each of Utah’s major health care systems on a virtual call to explain the process of restarting elective procedures.
“At Intermountain, we are in a position to proceed with a gentle, measured opening to surgeries,” said Dr. Mark Briesacher of Intermountain Healthcare.
Specific surgeries that will be the first to get the go-ahead were not listed.
Instead, the urgency of each patient’s needs will be evaluated on a case by case basis.
“Much of this depends on how each patient is doing. Are they safe to wait? Is their condition worsening? Are they are risk of having harm if surgery is being delayed?,” Dr. Briesacher said.
Every patient must test negative for COVID-19 before their operation.
“We wouldn’t want to operate on somebody when they had COVID that was not showing symptoms,” said Dr. Sam Finlayson of University of Utah Health. “If they develop symptoms after, they are dealing with COVID and recovery from the surgery at the same time.”
Hospitals around the state will work in unison to tackle this challenge together.
Doctors say the restriction was lifted because of the community’s efforts with social distancing. If a spike in cases occurs, these surgeries can be halted again.
“These are the things [social distancing] that are going to be necessary at the community level until we have definitive therapies that can treat COVID-19 or a vaccine becomes available,” Dr. Briesacher said.