U.S. Coronavirus task force urges pause in elective surgeries

March 17, 2020

As the coronavirus ravages the world, elective surgeries should be avoided, the Trump adminstration said Tuesday.

Federal and industry authorities are urging doctors and surgeons to avoid performing elective surgeries while the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is going on.

Deborah Birx, MD, who is coordinating the Trump administrations response to the pandemic, announced during a White House press conference March 17 that doctors and dentists should avoid performing elective surgeries during the pandemic to avoid using medical supplies.

“Things that don’t need to be done over the next two weeks don’t get it done,” Birx said. “If you’re a person with an elective surgery, don’t go into a hospital right now.”

On March 13, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) published a news release with information for their members also advising against performing “electively scheduled operations, endoscopies, or other invasive procedures” until they are confident that the numbers of infections will not grow beyond what the country’s hospitals can handle.

The release also urges surgeons to immediately minimize the use of essential items needed to care for patients including: ICU beds, personal protective equipment, terminal cleaning supplies, and ventilators.

For inpatient facilities, the ACS recommends:

  • Rescheduling elective surgeries

  • Shifting elective urgent surgeries and inpatient diagnostics to outpatient settings when feasible

  • Limit visitors to COVID-19 patients

  • Plan for a surge of critically ill patients and identify additional space for these patients by using alternate and separate spaces in the ER, ICUs, and other patient care areas to manage known or suspected cases; separate known or suspected COVID-19 patients from other patients, and identifying dedicated staff to COVID-19 patients

The ACS also advises all physicians to refer to the CDC’s website on how to prepare.

“Time is of the essence,” says the release signed by David B. Hoyt, MD, FACS, ACS Executive Director. “Please be vigilant and take a leadership role in your practice setting so that these recommendations begin to take hold immediately.”

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