AUSTIN (KXAN) — Months before coronavirus hit Texas, Anna Samaratunga had her consultation and made her appointment for surgery.
It was something she was excited about and couldn’t wait to get done, but then COVID-19 halted her surgery until just a few weeks ago.
“I had an implant exchange,” explained Samaratunga. “And then I also had a… Brazilian Bottom Lift.”
The mom, 36, said she wasn’t worried about the virus because of all the precautions being taken.
“I feel like everything is held to a specific standard, but now the standards are higher to try to help minimize the spread,” explained Samaratunga.
Virtual consultations, staggering appointments, curbside check-in and COVID-19 testing are among steps being taken by some doctors before elective surgeries.
Dr. Johnny Franco, founder of More Beautiful You Plastic Surgery, said his practice has seen a 20% increase of new patients scheduling just this month.
“What we are hearing in our practice is that people have time to get things done that they’d been putting off because they were under time constraints prior to the pandemic,” Franco explained. “Now that they are looking at going back to work, they want to take care of these procedures before that happens since most people will not be able to ask for time off for a while.”
Franco said patients are getting screened at least three times before procedures and tested for COVID-19 about a week before surgery. His office provides a saliva test for patients.
He explained that they moved in that direction and have had to stagger appointments, because there aren’t enough tests for doctors to do the level of testing needed so that the virus doesn’t spread.
“I don’t think there’s enough rapid test. I think that has made it very, very difficult,” he said. “We’ve been able to find ways and places to do it. We just… purchased all of the testing kits ourselves. So, we just buy them and this way patients don’t have to worry about it. We give it to them, we set up the days for them, and this way we try and take all of the obstacles out for patients — because I think it’s that important.”
The Texas Medical Association, which represents doctors across the state, explained that there are no specific guidance on testing for elective procedures and it’s up to each practice on how to handle it.
A TMA spokesperson said the CDC acknowledges considerations about making sure facilities follow infection control guidance and have enough equipment such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies should they do elective procedures.
Franco said ideally he would love to get patients tested the day before surgery. Right now the saliva tests are taking three to six days to process.
“That’s why we have them self-quarantine themselves from a week before they take the test, from when they take the test and until their surgery,” Dr. Franco explained.