Texas doctors warn surgeries could be delayed months as healthcare facilities try to catch up

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Governor Greg Abbott has recently reduced restrictions for healthcare facilities and surgeries amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but that does not mean things will immediately return to normal.

“It will be contingent upon, most importantly, how the number of cases are doing from a surge standpoint in the peak, and also the availability of PPE. And a third most important thing is the hospital capacity or availability to take on sort of those patients,” Dr. M. Haris Nazim, Regional Chair for the Department of Surgery at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center explained.

Not only do healthcare facilities need to take PPE and capacity into consideration, they’re also having to weigh the priority of patients who have had to cancel over the past few weeks. This has led to a backlog of surgeries.

“For example, somebody who has history of cancer needs surgery are probably the top priority,” Dr. Nazim said, “Or, somebody who has a hernia, getting symptomatic, those are a priority at this point.”

Lisa Link’s 5-month-old son, Henry, already had his main surgery before the pandemic began.

“After he was born, we found out from Dr. Nast that he would need a surgical procedure to go in and alleviate some some tension that was related to the hydronephrosis,” Link said, explaining her son’s kidney surgery.

“At the time of surgery, we place a small stent, which is a plastic tiny plastic tube that goes past our repair from the kidney to the bladder to keep things nice and open during the healing process,” Dr. Kelly Nast with Children’s Urology explained, “That stent stays in for about four to six weeks after surgery.”

Link explained that the follow-up procedure to remove the stent was originally scheduled for last week, but because of the risk of exposure, it needed to be pushed back.

“We thought that it was safest just to wait, and I think everyone’s really comfortable with that plan,” Dr. Nast said.

New precautions are in place for scheduled surgeries, Dr. Nast said, which can make the process last longer, but are needed to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Link said these precautionary measures assure her that her son will be safe.

“He has to go through on Friday before surgery on Monday, he has to be tested for COVID before they’ll even officially admit him in for surgery,” Link said, “I would rather err on the side of caution, than not.”

Dr. Nast said Henry’s procedure is not the only one that has been pushed back. She said healthcare facilities across the state are having to get to all of the backlogged procedures, while also taking in new patients.

“I think trying to combine the patients that have been postponed, and those coming in is going to take a little bit of time. I would hope that in the next two to three months, we would be back to our normal wait times for surgery,” Dr. Nast said.

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