Doctors at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital had to put off 800 to 1,000 elective surgeries to treat Covid-19 patients during the height of the pandemic. With cases steadily declining, however, the staff is starting to schedule the procedures.
“At this point, the state has said we can proceed, and we are following the guidelines,” said Dr. Rajiv Datta, chairman of the hospital’s Department of Surgery and the medical director of its cancer program. “It’s safe now to come and get these procedures done, before an elective surgery becomes an emergency.”
Guidelines that hospital officials urge patients to follow include making sure that they are social distancing for up to 14 days before surgery, that they be tested for Covid-19 at the hospital’s drive-through site on Washington Avenue at least three days before an operation, and that they isolate themselves from others in the days before the procedure. Once guidelines are met, patients can undergo elective surgeries, such as hernia operations or cosmetic procedures.
Doctors are now scheduling these and other procedures. Datta said it might take up to 10 days for the hospital to return to its regular daily schedule of elective procedures.
Typically, before the pandemic, MSSN doctors performed 40 surgeries a day. There are now, on average, 15 per day, and doctors may begin scheduling them at night and on weekends to accommodate all requests.
Elective surgeries were paused to ensure there were enough beds, ventilators, doctors and personal protective equipment to treat Covid-19 patients.
The hospital is promoting a “Don’t Put Your Health on Hold” initiative, urging the community not to risk safety out of fear of coming to a hospital. “If you’re out there and you have a procedure that you’ve been putting off, or if you have any kind of medical issue, you should call immediately,” said Joe Calderone, the hospital’s vice president of corporate communications. “Don’t wait.”
He said the hospital has a safe passageway for non-Covid-19 patients. At the same time, the number of Covid-19 patients has dropped from 80 percent of the hospital’s capacity down to 33 percent, Calderone said. Many coronavirus rooms were deep-cleaned and converted back to their intended purpose.
“Over the last eight weeks, it was all over the news that hospitals were loaded with Covid patients, which was true,” Datta said. “But the numbers are different now, and we are very careful about what we do here.”
At press time Friday, the hospital had 65 confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases, and 13 Covid-19 patients on ventilators. Meanwhile, 880 coronavirus patients had been discharged. On April 13, the hospital peaked at 383 Covid-19 patients.
If people follow social-distancing guidelines, wear masks in public and wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, Calderone said he is hopeful that a second wave of infection, if it were to arise, would not be as bad as the first. Additionally, he said, the hospital would be better prepared for the outbreak.
“If it comes, we have a bit of a playbook now that we really didn’t have before, and most hospitals in the country are better prepared for a second surge because everyone learned from the first time,” he said.