Governor McMaster requests hospitals pause elective surgeries; some will, others making changes

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Governor Henry McMaster is recommending a pause on elective surgeries at South Carolina hospitals such as plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery and any procedures not categorized as matters of life or death. It would be the second pause of elective surgeries and operations across the state since the pandemic began.

Some Lowcountry hospitals say they will continue to operate business as usual and have no plans to slow elective surgeries. Others plan to scale back elective surgeries to provide more resources for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

State leaders have expressed frustration over the speed of vaccine rollout across the state during the initial weeks of the vaccination process. Some hospitals say they plan to scale back elective surgeries while others are expanding operations and pushing forward with rollout and normal business.

Health professionals say the decision on whether or not to scale back operations should be made on a case-by-case basis.

“These are not, you know, ‘you’re going to bleed out if you don’t have it done’, ‘you’re going to die of an infection if you don’t have it done’ [procedures]” says Dr. Kenneth Perry, an ER Physician at Trident. “You know, [if] you’ve just been shot and there is a perforation… we’re not going to wait on those.”

The decision ultimately boils down to the amount of resources and staff available.

“Are they able to still have a high-volume rollout of the vaccine while still continuing to have their normal business as usual? If you’re a smaller institution, if you’re an institution that doesn’t have the right thought process or abilities, it might be difficult,” says Dr. Perry.

Elective surgeries can require upwards of ten people, in some cases closer to twenty staff members for one operation. Dr. Perry says it’s a lot of effort and resources to give for some smaller hospitals and institutions focused on vaccine rollout efforts too.

“Each institution is going to have to determine what is best for them,” says Dr. Perry.

Trident Medical Center, East Cooper Medical Center and Roper St. Francis all say they have no plans to slow elective operations.

Officials with Roper St. Francis say the hospital has been doing the opposite by increasing staff and resources in order to handle the work load.

“Our intention is to keep expanding our capacity for COVID-19 to allow for all those elective procedures,” says Pennie Peralta, Chief of Nursing at Roper St. Francis. “Our goal is to keep all of that operational.”

When the decision to postpone elective surgeries happened earlier this year, Dr. Perry says the decision was made based on a lack of supplies like ventilators. He says this this request is simply about putting all efforts towards rapid vaccination at hospitals.

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