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Catholic Health on returning to elective procedures

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Posted at 11:57 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 23:58:51-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Elective procedures are returning in the COVID-19 era after being “paused” in New York.

“No need to be afraid, we’re going to take care of you,” Senior Vice President of Acute Care at Catholic Health Marty Boryszak, said. The hospital system restarted elective procedures last week almost two months since being halted.

“An elective procedure is ultimately anything that is scheduled. It doesn’t mean that it’s not important, it doesn’t mean that it’s not urgent, it doesn’t mean that someone may not have a chronic issue,” Boryszak said.

The backlog for Catholic Health is simply staggering. More than 3,500 cases were put on hold since stopping elective procedures. In terms of finances, Boryszak said the loss is in “the tens of millions,” but wouldn’t give a specific amount. Catholic health furloughed at least 1200 employees.

“Just like any health system in the country this entire COVID pandemic has really, really caused a lot of financial strain on our organizations. Catholic Health wasn’t immune to that,” he said.

The hospital system was the first in Western New York to get a waiver approved by the state to resume elective procedures. Boryszak said turning Sisters of Charity Hospital, St. Joseph Campus into a COVID-only hospital helped with that.

“It really said that we handled the pandemic the best that we could, the right way,” he said.

Last week, Catholic Health performed 150-175 procedures across all hospitals. This week that number grew to more than 500. The return of elective procedures brought back 250-300 of the furloughed staff to work.

“As more activity comes, the billing, the financial, the back office functions we will be able to return more people to work,” Boryszak said. He added the second elective procedures stopped, planning was underway for what it would look like on the other side.

Any candidate undergoing elective procedures at Catholic Health in “the new normal” first needs a COVID-19 test 72 hours before surgery day. This allows at least a day buffer in case the procedure needs to be canceled.

On surgery day, the candidate gets paired with a “patient escort.” That person literally touches the elevator buttons and leads the way through the mapped out hospitals to ensure maximum social distancing, both before and after the procedure.

Visitors are still not allowed, which is a rule Boryszak said will continue for the near future. Instead, surgeons now use iPads to connect with loved ones to update on them on the surgery and the patient.

“When they enter one of our facilities they will be well taken care of every step of the way. From the time they enter our buildings to the time that they leave, we thought about everything from patient safety to infection control to how we’re going to take care of that person in a COVID world,” Boryszak said.