UPMC planning to ramp up elective surgeries despite state ban

Within six weeks, UPMC plans to return elective surgeries to the level they were before the coronavirus pandemic shut them down, despite a ban on the surgeries ordered by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in March, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The ban prohibiting elective surgeries statewide took effect in March, and state health department officials confirmed to the Post-Gazette that the ban is still in place. But the publication obtained a letter sent to UPMC surgeons dated April 15 that shows it making plans to ramp up elective surgeries.

The letter gives surgeons advice on how to justify the procedures, telling them to use terms such as "urgent," "cancer" and "relief from suffering," the Post-Gazette reports.

A UPMC spokesman said April 20 that the 40-hospital system believes it can perform elective procedures safely, according to the report. The spokesman also said that new CMS guidance offered healthcare organizations flexibility with regard to providing patients the care they need for nonurgent conditions.

"In the current environment, with proper protection and precautions, we believe that we can soon begin to treat patients who postponed needed treatments and procedures," the spokesman said in a statement to the Post-Gazette.

A key driver for boosting the number of elective surgeries will be technology that received emergency FDA clearance March 29. That technology allows face masks used by clinicians during COVID-19 care to be sterilized for reuse up to 20 times, the Post-Gazette reports.

UPMC has been piloting the technology and plans to roll out its use to all surgical sites, a handout from an employee meeting April 16 shows.

The ban on elective surgeries, currently in place in 35 states, is hurting hospital finances. The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania released a report April 20 that shows the pandemic could take a $10 billion toll on hospitals in the state.

If UPMC moves forward with its plans, it would be the first hospital in the state to return to performing elective surgery procedures.

More articles on patient flow:
Integris halts inpatient services at Oklahoma hospital campus
Coronavirus patients may be airlifted from Arizona to New Mexico for care
COVID-19 peak dates: Updated projections for each state



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