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Elective surgery ban ends

Friday, May 1, marked the end of Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s ban on elective surgeries.

Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA directed all hospitals, including Southside Centra Community Hospital in Farmville, to stop performing elective surgeries or procedures to help conserve supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) March 25. The ban was then extended to May 1.

Centra Public Information Officer Diane Ludwig said in a release Friday the hospital would be maintaining its diligence while proceeding to this new normal.

“The pandemic is not a faucet turned on and now being turned off,” Ludwig said. “Instead, we must take disciplined steps into a new world that we are still learning to understand. Limited testing capabilities have left us uncertain about the true burden of disease in our community.”

In the release, Ludwig explained steps Centra hospitals will be taking as things get back to that new normal. She said Centra would resume caring for patients requiring elective procedures as of May 1.

Additionally, Centra will be performing pre-procedural COVID-19 testing for all of its patients. COVID-19 positive patients will be rescheduled based on various guidelines. Patients entering the hospital will be screened with a temperature check and questioning, and staggered starts to procedural areas will be implemented to the extent possible.

Ludwig said Centra’s caregivers will continue to exercise precautions as if they are COVID-19 positive, including physical distancing and PPE utilization. Aerosolizing procedures such as intubation and nebulizer therapy will be minimized when required, with a minimum number of caregivers present.

Air-exchange filters will be used liberally in anesthesia machines, and extra time will be offered for natural air exchange processes to occur.

Ludwig added Centra has a backlog of elective procedures due to the governor’s executive order. She said Centra performed more than 3,000 cases during this same period in 2019, not including cardiac catheterization procedures, obstetrics or general procedures performed in outpatient facilities.

“During the months of March/April 2020 we have performed 1,500 cases that were done on an emergent basis,” she said. “We can reasonably assume we have a backlog of approximately 800-900 cases.”

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that healthcare spending declined at an annualized rate of 18% in the first three months of 2020. The drop is the largest reduction since the U.S. government began recording the data in 1959.

Licensed inpatient and outpatient surgical hospitals, free-standing endoscopy centers, physicians’ offices, and dental, orthodontic, and endodontic offices were permitted to perform any procedures or surgeries during the ban that if delayed or canceled would result in the patient’s condition worsening.

That being said, many of the medical offices in the Town of Farmville are now opening back up after several weeks of closure due to the pandemic.

Dr. Daniel Kingsley of Farmville said his office has been working carefully to keep patients and staff safe while offering essential services to the community. The office has been encouraging patients to wear masks when visiting.

Dr. Andrew Johnson’s dental office in Farmville opened back up Monday, May 4, as did the office of Michael E. Krone and Associates. Krone’s office performed elective surgeries during the ban and rescheduled most appointments rather than canceling them and is now making an effort to leave time between patient visits to allow for space in the waiting room and extra sanitization.

The office of Dr. Teresita Dionisio and R. Victor Adaniel, located at 502 Beech St in Farmville, remained open under limited hours for the past several weeks, although some parents have been hesitant to bring in their child for a well-care checkup.

The Southside Eye Center is now open and is limiting the number of patients in the office.

The office of Dr. Vara Banagiri saw some patients over the last few weeks when necessary, but utilized phone calls to speak with patients when able in order to minimize contact and risk to the immune compromised.