BUFFALO, N.Y. — Catholic Health has received approval from the New York State Department of Health to resume elective surgeries at three Erie County hospitals.
According to Catholic Health, those surgeries are expected to resume next week and will be prioritized based on patient need.
"Today is a very exciting day for Catholic Health," President and CEO Mark Sullivan said.
Not only will Catholic Health be able to resume procedures including colonoscopies, joint replacements, and other surgeries for patients who've been waiting, it will also help it stop hemorrhaging money.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's order for hospitals to cancel elective surgeries to free up beds for a projected crushing wave of COVID-19 patients (which never came) amounted to monthly losses for Catholic Health of $35 million per month.
It will also allow Catholic Health to bring back more than 200 of the 1,300 employees it had to furlough because of it.
Why Catholic Health?
Erie County Medical Center and Kaleida Health tell us that they too have applied for permission to resume elective procedures, and expect to receive it soon.
However, there may be several reasons why Catholic Health was allowed to proceed first.
For one thing, it currently only has five COVID-19 patients at its four hospitals in Erie and Niagara counties where it will do elective surgeries.
The lion's share of its COVID-19 patients are at the St. Josephs facility in Cheektowaga which Catholic Health opened as a "Covid-only" facility at the onset of the pandemic.
In addition, it also has its own convalescence center for recovering Covid patients at the former Absolutecare nursing home in Orchard Park.
New rules for patients
Catholic Health had to take several steps to demonstrate to the state health department that it could conduct elective surgeries while mitigating the chances of a coronavirus outbreak within its facilities.
Before getting their surgery, patients will have to have had a COVID-19 test, yielding a negative result, within 72 hours before their scheduled procedure.
"If the test is positive, we will be cancelling that case and rescheduling it at a later date when we can yield a negative result," said Marty Boryszak, Catholic Health's Senior Vice President for Acute Care Services.
Once a patent arrives, they'll be directed to a designated entrance and restricted on where they can go within the hospital.
Moreover, they go won't be allowed inside without an escort, and won't even be allowed to touch anything.
That will be the escort's job, according to Boryszak.
"What these escorts will ultimately do is hit the elevator buttons for the patient, and make sure that they (the escort) open the doors, We want to minimize the exposure and the risk for our patients that are coming back to our buildings to make sure they feel safe," he said.
Waiting in the wings
Meanwhile, Kaleida Health issued the following statement on its hoped for resumption of elective surgeries.
“More than six weeks ago, we suspended non-emergency surgical cases and other procedures due to the pandemic. Throughout this time, we have been able to safely care for all patients plus accommodate all emergency and urgent operations.
“In addition to this, we also created significant surge capacity - most notably in our critical care units - added millions in personal protective equipment, expanded COVID-19 testing community-wide and implemented a best in class patient and employee safety plan.
“That said, there has been significant patient and employee hardship during this public health crisis. Knowing that we have capacity and can safely resume surgeries, we submitted waiver applications for Oishei Children’s Hospital, Buffalo General Medical Center, Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Southtowns Ambulatory Surgery Center as well as the Millard Fillmore Surgery Center.
“These physician and nursing-led waiver plans meet all of the criteria needed to achieve the safe patient care model as outlined in the executive order 202.25 Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency.
“This is not a race. We have had numerous productive conversations with the State Department of Health this week about our waivers and we remain confident that we will be able to resume limited elective surgeries at our hospitals and surgery centers soon.”