(TNS) – When cases of the novel coronavirus first emerged in the United States, concerns over whether the nation’s health-care system had the capacity to care for mass quantities of sick individuals loomed large.
And as leaders grappled with how hospitals could treat a growing pool of COVID-19 patients, other facets of the health-care system were altered or paused.
At Kalispell Regional Medical Center in Montana, elective procedures ranging from cosmetic surgeries to routine cancer screenings were back-burnered in March, as they were at hospitals nationwide. Dr. Randall Zuckerman, chairman of Kalispell Regional’s Department of Surgery and physician director of its surgical service line, said this was done primarily to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE).
“There are three major issues that impact our ability to deal with COVID and those are PPE, testing and hospital beds and the staff that manage them,” Zuckerman said. “Upfront we were really worried about PPE because the global supply chain had run dry. When that happened all of the specialty societies, including the American College of Surgeons, came out with a very strong recommendation to stop elective surgery. So we stopped everything.”
The decision also prompted Zuckerman and other surgeons within his unit to switch to what he called a “Team B approach.” Instead of having the department’s eight surgeons working at once, only two surgeons would work for a week at a time while the other six were sent home.
“There were still emergency surgeries that had to be performed. So what we were trying to