Some hospitals restrict elective surgery to navigate coronavirus safely

A Heroes Work Here sign outside West Boca Medical Center. Photo by Diane Emeott Korzen.

By: Diane Emeott Korzen
Contributing writer

With total COVID-19 cases in Florida now surpassing the 300,000 mark, area hospitals are tak-ing another look at which medical procedures they allow, and don’t allow, in order to keep pa-tients safe.

Outpatient surgeries requiring more than same-day hospitalization are no longer happening at Boca Regional as of July 13.

“We’re not doing any procedures that people have to stay overnight for,” said a hospital operator.

The local hospital, now part of Baptist Health network, was in the process of shutting down its elective surgeries on July 8, according to another hospital employee.

Area hospitals had just reopened for elective surgeries at the beginning of June in most cases.

Thank you to frontline workers sign outside Boca Regional. Photo by Diane Emeott Korzen.

West Boca Medical Center and Delray Medical Center — owned by Tenant — have varying pol-icies for priority procedures and elective surgeries, as of press time.

On July 13, West Boca said they are still open for elective surgeries. They are only allowing people to stay overnight on a case-by-case basis.

Delray Medical Center said everything there is on a case-by-case basis with your doctor — whether to do the elective surgery at this time, and whether same-day or an overnight stay.

Asked the week before whether Delray had any plans to temporarily shut down its elective sur-geries, a hospital employee said, “We don’t know, with 23,000 reported cases in the state in one week [as of June 23].”

Sunday, July 12, saw the largest upswing in positive cases in Florida since the beginning — 15,299 in one day. The three South Florida counties of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, in descending order, remain the hardest hit.

Boca Raton reported 2,593 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday, July 13.

Broward Health North, in neighboring Deerfield Beach, was shutting down surgeries on July 14, Bastille Day.

“Upon careful review of area hospital utilization and COVID-19 statistics in South Florida, we are once again taking all necessary measures to help ensure the safety of our patients and care-givers by [suspending elective procedures,]” said Broward Health Associate Vice President of Corporate Communications Jennifer Smith.

Jackson Memorial was the first to shut down its elective surgeries on July 6, with Miami-Dade experiencing the highest coronavirus numbers in the state.

The climb in numbers has continued to a 33 percent positive rate in Miami-Dade as of July 10.

This compared to just 8 percent a few weeks ago, according to Mayor Carlos Giminez.

A Jackson Memorial representative in early July said Jackson facilities had capacity at that time; their biggest challenge was staffing.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced at a press conference that he was asking the state to send 100 nurses to hard-hit Jackson Memorial. The 100 nurses to be starting there in the next few weeks will have critical care experience to give relief to nurses who have been on the front lines since March.

Memorial Healthcare System, with locations in Hollywood, Pembroke and Miramar in second highest hit Broward, said it would postpone all non-emergency surgeries, but still provide outpa-tient procedures that do not require an overnight stay.

The State of Florida— except Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach — entered into Phase 2 Recovery on June 5.

“We’re still in Phase 1. We’re moving like a snail toward Phase 2. We feel your pain,” said a cus-tomer service representative at Boca City Hall on July 9.

Once elective surgeries resume, there are some changes to be aware of.

Pre-op testing now includes a mandatory COVID-19 test — results must be negative in order to qualify for surgery. At West Boca, patients getting ready for surgery have a nasal swab COVID-test performed outdoors four days before the surgery; while the standard bloodwork and EKG are done indoors, with both the nurse and patient wearing masks at all times.

Patients and visitors must have their temperatures taken when they walk in, and are screened re-garding recent travel and respiratory symptoms including shortness of breath and/or cough.

Check with your hospital for their latest visitor policy, whether one or no visitors are allowed.

Boca Regional, and area hospitals, have implemented safety measures: social distanced lobbies, enhanced infection protection (hand sanitizer stations) and cleaning, personal protective equip-ment, telehealth services, staff safety training, plexiglass shields at front desk.

Both West Boca and Delray Medical Centers were recognized on June 18 as recipients of the ‘2020 Patient Safety Excellence Award’ — placing them among the Top 5 percent of all short-term acute care hospitals reporting patient safety data that is evaluated by Healthgrades.

Before coming to an emergency room or urgent care, patients should bring their regular medi-cines, including metered-dose inhalers. COVID-19 patients, or those suspected of having the vi-rus, are treated in separate areas of the hospital.