COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s been more than a month since one of the biggest health care providers in the Midlands resumed elective surgeries.
Prisma Health and other health care providers stopped offering optional procedures in March in an effort to conserve hospital resources for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases. The company resumed elective surgeries in late April and orthopedic surgery department chair Chris Mazoue said his team is still two to three weeks from catching up on the demand.
"We have a huge backlog of surgical procedures that needed to be done and so it's simply the scheduling part of it to be able to get into the operating rooms to perform those surgical procedures," he said.
Mazoue said Prisma Health has enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to safely conduct the procedures and manage the COVID-19 pandemic. He said safety procedures have been put in place to protect both healthcare workers and patients.
Mazoue added patients should consider scheduling a procedure if they need it.
"People still have diseases and people still have problems and those haven't magically gone away," he said. "We're really hoping that patients come back and seek out their medical care because a lot of patients have cardiac conditions or pulmonary conditions or orthopedic conditions that need to be taken care of."
The return of patients will also translate to more revenue for Prisma, something the company said went down by 25% in March.
Mazoue said his department of more than 300 people is back at full strength after furloughing some workers.
Prisma Health would not say how many people were furloughed, or how many have been brought back.
It did send WIS a statement, which reads in part:
Prisma Health has continued providing urgent and emergent care to patients during the COVID-19 crisis. In preparation for a potential large increase of COVID-19 patients, in early March, Prisma Health began deferring selected cases and appointments for patients whose health would not be adversely impacted by the delay.
Elective cases were down 80%, physician office visits down 40%, Emergency Department visits down 40% and net revenue down 25% from budget in March. Our number of telehealth visits greatly increased.
Due to the early and effective implementation of social distancing and “stay at work or stay at home” guidance, current COVID-19 positive patient projections for South Carolina are far lower than first forecasted. Beginning in early May, Gov. McMaster lifted the stay at home order and began allowing businesses and state parks to re-open under conditions designed to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. Prisma Health also is expanding the availability of clinical services to meet the non-emergent health care needs of our patients in physician practices, ambulatory facilities and our hospitals.
A team of physicians, nurses and infection control specialists developed our plan to resume clinical services, starting with patients whose surgical procedures were deferred as well as non-emergent medical care for patients who need to be seen by their physicians. The safety of patients and team members is our top priority, and our plan ensures that we can provide the care that the community needs in a safe, clean environment. We have put in place additional measures such as social distancing, temperature screenings, masking and gloving, as well as continuing to separate well patients from COVID-19 patients, to maintain safety. For procedures requiring sedation, our Visitation Policy has been modified to allow one companion.
We are now ramping up surgeries as well as many procedures, and non-emergent appointments are being scheduled. For example, primary care practices – family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics – are gradually returning to normal office schedules. Procedures steadily resuming include colonoscopies, EEGs, cardiac catheterizations, electrophysiology procedures (such as pacemakers), imaging tests, joint injections, dermatologic biopsies and Mohs surgery.
As we expand our clinical services, we have been gradually recalling furloughed clinical staff or increasing hours for those team members whose hours were reduced.
The pandemic recovery for Prisma Health, South Carolina and the United States will be months long, and our organization is evolving and adapting now in recognition of the work ahead of us. Our physicians, nurses and managers are redesigning this workflow, which includes additional precautions for the safety of our patients and team members.
Part of our recovery effort also includes ongoing streamlining of departments to remove expenses in recognition of significantly lower patient volumes and revenue. This is resulting in the reassignment of personnel and the elimination of jobs or reduced hours. At the same time, however, we are beginning to resume non-emergent patient care activities and are gradually recalling furloughed clinical staff, as noted above.