NYS to allow elective outpatient treatments in areas with low risk of COVID-19 surge

Posted at 12:45 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 23:28:46-04

NEW YORK (WKBW) — New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the state would allow hospitals in areas of the state with a low risk of a COVID-19 surge to begin elective outpatient treatments next Tuesday. These procedures bringing needed care and revenue.

Elective outpatient treatments across the state came to a halt a few weeks ago to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to guidelines from the Governor's office, "Hospitals will be able to resume performing elective outpatient treatments on April 28, 2020 if the hospital capacity is over 25 percent for the county and if there have been fewer than 10 new hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in the county over the past 10 days. If a hospital is located in a county eligible to resume elective outpatient treatments, but that hospital has a capacity under 25 percent or has had more than 10 new hospitalizations in the past 10 days, that hospital is not eligible to resume elective surgeries. If a county or hospital that has resumed elective surgery experiences a decrease in hospital capacity below the 25 percent threshold or an increase of 10 or more new hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients, elective surgeries must cease. Further, patients must test negative for COVID-19 prior to any elective outpatient treatment."

Governor Cuomo said some hospitals in the state are laying off employees due to the decreased volume created by eliminating elective treatments.

"We’re going to take a very cautious approach to it and gradually ramp up," CEO and President at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, Joesph Ruffolo, said. It's welcoming news for Ruffolo who says the hospital had to furlough about 50 employees due to rising care costs and a hit in revenue.

Niagara Falls Memorial plans to resume these procedures April 28th. Ruffolo says he thinks the hospital meets all of the needed criteria.

"Because the surgery is elective doesn’t mean that it’s not necessary. And so the postponement of elective surgeries for the past 4,5,6 weeks have left some patients in a very vulnerable situation," Ruffolo said.

Candidates at Niagara Falls Memorial will be tested for COVID-19 four days before surgery. They will be screened again the day of the operation if they test negative the first time.

Although the majority of Catholic Health hospitals will not be able to resume elective surgery, the Mount St. Mary's campus in Lewiston will. The six operation rooms are set to be back up and running within the next three weeks.

"Anytime that you can provide a patient care that relieves pain or gives them the confidence or allows them to live their life in a more fulfilling way, that’s exciting for me," CEO and President at Catholic Health, Mark Sullivan, said. Testing and social distancing will be crucial in ensuring safety. Catholic Health said they’re ready to go operationally, but they want to educate patients on how this will work.

“Eisenhower said: 'It’s not the plan, it’s the planning.’ So this is changing as we’re sitting here, they’re having meetings now," Sullivan said.

But there are restrictions here. Elective surgeries are still not allowed in Erie county -- as well as many downstate. Sullivan said he agrees with this approach and is planning how Erie county will resume these procedures when it is allowed.

"We definitely have a pent up demand both in Erie and Niagara counties for elective surgeries since we stopped them mid-March," Sullivan said.

The state says it will allow elective treatments to begin in hospitals and counties where hospital capacity is not an issue and the risk of a COVID-19 surge is low.