University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics "prepared" to resume elective surgeries

Published: Apr. 24, 2020 at 8:46 PM CDT
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University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics say they are prepared to resume elective surgeries, following the Governor’s announcement to allow the procedures Friday.

"The new normal for a significant period of time is we're going to have COVID in the community but we're also going to have to take care of other medical conditions," said the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics CEO Suresh Gunasekaran.

This includes moving forward with elective procedures, such as operations that have been on hold. They say about 70% of scheduled surgeries were delayed.

However, Gunasekaran says they will be approaching the procedures in phases.

"This is not calling back every single patient and going through this. We're going to bring them back in blocks service by service. Each of our physician leaders has a pretty good understanding of which patients that have been delayed are most in need," he said.

He says right now, they are getting a better understanding of the guidelines. They plan to start talking to patients on Monday and starting procedures the following week – as he says many of their cases are about a patient’s health first.

"We don't do very many cases that are cosmetic so most of the time when folks come to the university it's because it's something serious. What we've seen is patient’s health risks that gets greater and greater by delaying procedures, we see patients that are in such significant pain that you have to prescribe them opioids or other things in order to tide them over for this period of time," he added.

He adds capacity-wise, they're in a good place with 850 beds between their adult and pediatric units. Half are available right now.

“We can easily reserve 100 beds or more for COVID positive patients for any future surge," he said.

It's the same as far as PPE supply.

"We're able to procure it through our own channels so we feel confident about our PPE situation," Gunasekaran said.

But as outlined in the Governor's guidelines, if doing this put too much strain on a hospital's PPE utilization – they are ready to delay surgeries again. They're hoping it doesn't come to that, as that does affect their bottom line.

"Our surgical volumes have dropped somewhere between 70 and 80 percent during this time," said Gunasekaran. "This is causing us to lose tens of millions of dollars per month as the hospital stays empty."