CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - All four Roper St. Francis Hospitals have suspended elective surgeries for at least a week as of Tuesday.
But officials say, unlike last time the hospitals did this, they are not suspending the surgeries because employees are testing positive for COVID 19 or because they don’t have enough supplies. Roper St. Francis Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Mitchell Siegan says they are suspending surgeries because they need the team that is normally working with patients in the OR, to help with COVID 19 patients.
"Our scarcest resource, our most valuable asset at this time, is our clinical team," Siegan said. "Our team of doctors, and nurses and support staff, that needs to be able to take care of the COVID patients at the bedside."
All Roper St. Francis hospitals are experiencing staffing challenges because of the influx of COVID 19 patients. Nearly 40% of their hospital beds have COVID 19 patients. And in order to free up staff and medical beds they will only be performing about 20% of their normal surgeries, since officials say as much as 80% of their surgeries are considered non-emergency.
Non-emergency elective surgeries are surgeries that threaten a patient’s life, permanent dysfunction of an extremity or organ system, risk of progression of cancer staging, or risk of rapidly worsening to severe symptoms.
For certain spine surgeries, there is a risk of permanent nerve damage, but Siegan says elective surgeries like hip and knee replacements, most spine surgeries, hernia repairs and more can be managed with medication.
"Pain would not be the primary driving factor at a time like this," Siegan said. "It would be the risk or concern of permanent nerve damage if the surgery is delayed."
Roper also suspended surgeries back in March because of government mandates and a lack of supplies. But since then they have caught up on all surgeries that were suspended.
Hospital officials also say although they are not short PPE or ventilators like before, Roper St. Francis Hospitals are running low on the drug health officials are using right now to help COVID 19 patients, called Remdesivir. They are waiting to hear from the state in the next couple days about if they will be able to replenish the supply.
The elective surgery suspension will last at least one week. Officials will then decide if the suspension needs to be extended on a week by week basis.