Updated April 29, 2020 - 5:16 pm
Southern Nevada’s major hospitals plan to resume “medically necessary” elective surgeries and procedures Monday, according to a Nevada Hospital Association letter obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The letter, dated Tuesday, was sent this week to medical staff at University Medical Center, North Vista Hospital and The Valley Health System, Dignity Health and HCA Healthcare hospital systems. The companies own and operate more than a dozen local hospitals that have more than 4,000 staffed acute-care beds.
Scheduling elective surgeries and procedures can begin immediately, according to the letter.
I does not define what makes an operation “medically necessary,” but UMC spokeswoman Danita Cohen said the surgeries are those a doctor has deemed necessary for a patient’s health. Surgeries performed for purely cosmetic reasons would not fall under that definition.
The step back toward normal operations will ensure all of the region’s citizens have access to important treatments, HCA Healthcare spokeswoman Sunnye Owens-Garrett said in a statement.
“Many people in our community have medical needs unrelated to COVID-19 that should not be ignored,” Owens-Garrett said.
Local hospitals began delaying elective surgeries in mid-March, less than two weeks after Nevada’s first confirmed case of the new coronavirus. The spread of the virus has slowed in recent weeks amid state-ordered social distancing measures.
More than 4,900 people in Nevada had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday afternoon, and more than 200 have died. There have been about 2,900 estimated recoveries statewide.
The decision to resume elective surgeries was made after Southern Nevada hospitals determined they had seen “a downward trajectory of both positive cases and cases requiring ICU level care,” the letter says. Several metrics were taken into consideration, including hospital capacity, staffing levels, ventilator usage and inventories of personal protective equipment like masks.
Only 60 percent of the Nevada’s staffed, acute-care beds were occupied as of Tuesday, according to Nevada Hospital Association data. Intensive-care rooms were 69 percent occupied, and 31 percent of ventilators were in use.
Under those conditions, local hospital leaders feel confident they can start performing elective surgeries again.
UMC CEO Mason VanHouweling wrote in a statement that its “trusted clinical leaders feel confident that our hospital has the necessary supplies, testing capacity and infection control measures to resume medically necessary elective surgeries.”
Some of those infection control measures, which local hospitals have all agreed to put into effect, were outlined in the Nevada Hospital Association’s letter.
Patients scheduled for elective procedures should be tested for the coronavirus 72 hours before their procedures. They should remain in isolation from the time of the test until their surgery and have their temperatures checked twice a day, the letter says.
After their surgeries, the patients will be placed in a dedicated hospital unit that has not housed patients with COVID-19 or anyone suspected of having it.
Patients who test positive for the virus or display symptoms of infection will not be scheduled for elective surgery, according to the letter.
Hospital staff will continue to be screened for symptoms before the start of each shift. The facilities’ visitor restriction policies will remain in effect.
Karla Perez, regional vice president for The Valley Health System, said in a statement that the safety measures should bring peace of mind to prospective patients who may feel uneasy about seeking care during the pandemic.
“Our top priority is to ensure that we are providing a safe, quality experience for patients where they can feel protected during their hospitalization,” Perez said.
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday signaled the resumption was drawing near, saying in a statement that the Nevada Hospital Association was preparing to resume “medically necessary procedures” amid the state’s slowing coronavirus outbreak. He did not provide specifics, but he indicated that more information about Nevada’s “Roadmap to Recovery” plan is expected will be announced at a news briefing Thursday.
Nevada Hospital Association spokeswoman Amy Shogren did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.