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Md. hospitals to postpone elective surgeries beginning this week

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Maryland hospitals, including Johns Hopkins Health System and University of Maryland Medical System, have begun to postpone elective surgeries as they work to free up capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that the state could restrict the use of elective surgeries as necessary as it responds to the coronavirus emergency.

UMMS and Hopkins announced Monday afternoon their coordinated decision to postpone elective surgeries for two weeks, beginning Wednesday.

Dr. David Marcozzi, UMMS’s COVID-19 Incident Commander, said the move would allow it to free up needed supplies and equipment while reducing the risk that patients could be exposed to the disease.

“Consistent with our priority to protect our patients and staff, our decision is guided by the need to minimize the risk of exposing surgical patients to COVID-19, minimize the potential for high-risk exposure to surgical and peri-operative staff from unrecognized and asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, minimize risk within the hospital environment from potential exposure consistent with social distancing principles, and ensure adequate availability of supplies and equipment that can be redirected to the care of COVID-19 patients,” he said in a statement. “This is a rapidly-changing dynamic and we need to plan ahead. Emergent and urgent procedures as defined by a patient’s care team that are necessary for a patient’s health and time sensitive will continue.”

Kim Hoppe, a spokeswoman for Hopkins, said in a statement that the policy would be routinely to see if should be extended or modified.

“Johns Hopkins Medicine is committed to providing exceptional patient care and to ensuring the safety of all of our patients and staff as we continue to provide critical front-line care to the communities that we serve. At the same time, given the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must consider even more carefully how we direct our resources to ensure that we are able to meet the needs of our patients, their families and our staff,” she said. “We are taking these steps at this time because of the well-understood community spread and transmission of the COVID-19 virus. We urge patients to consult with their physicians regarding rescheduling these elective surgeries.”

Greater Baltimore Medical Center also announced it would be halting all elective and all non-essential surgical cases, effective Tuesday.

“Currently, we are in the process of contacting patients directly to let them know about the change to their scheduled procedures and in notifying all surgeons and GI specialists about the decision to delay surgical operations,” a hospital statement said. “However, urgent surgery, for cancer patient cases, where time critical surgery for medical care is needed will be determined on a case by case basis. Again, the safety of our patients and staff are critical considerations, along with the proper utilization of resources that may be needed in the near future as the epidemic spreads.”

Luminis Health said Anne Arundel Medical Center and Doctors Community would limit surgeries and procedures to emergencies or urgent cases only beginning Wednesday. The system will reassess its decision every 72 hours and said it was calling impacted patients directly.

Few patients have been hospitalized so far for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but hospitals and public health leaders expect that to change in the coming weeks.

Social distancing measures currently in place are meant to keep too many patients from flooding hospitals, but it is likely that hospitals will reach or exceed their surge capacities. If that is the case, beds and equipment otherwise slated for elective procedures would be necessary to treat COVID-19 patients.

To meet capacity and to respond to how contagious the virus is, hospitals have made significant changes over the last week and continue to evaluate and reevaluate policies.

LifeBridge Health will also postpone its elective surgeries starting Wednesday. The system also made a new change to its visitor policies, limiting visitor hours to noon-7 p.m. LifeBridge, and most other hospitals, also restricted visitors last week.

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