News and Commentary

Surgeon General Calls On Hospitals To Consider Stopping Elective Surgeries
Surgeon General Jerome Adams
Alex Wong / Staff

Surgeon General Jerome Adams publicly called on U.S. hospitals Saturday to consider stopping elective surgeries to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and conserve resources. 

“Hospitals & healthcare systems, PLEASE CONSIDER STOPPING ELECTIVE PROCEDURES,” said Adams, who emphasized that elective surgeries diminish hospital resources and can unwittingly expose patients to coronavirus. 

The plea comes as multiple hospitals in the western Washington state region, including the Seattle Children’s Hospital, have announced they will be postponing all scheduled elective surgeries to preserve resources for coronavirus patients. 

“We are taking this action to preserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and to maintain social distancing standards, which minimizes potential exposures for patients and workforce members,” said Sonja Hanson, a spokesperson for the Seattle Children’s Hospital, reports the Seattle Times

According to New York Times columnist Nickolas Kristof, a hospital in the Seattle area circulated a memo among staff warning that the facility was down to a 4-day supply of gloves, and that “our local Covid-19 trajectory is likely to be similar to that of Northern Italy,” the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in Europe. 

The U.S. healthcare system only has approximately 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people — by contrast, Italy has 3.2 per 1,000 people, reports the Washington Post

As the Daily Wire previously reported, an Italian medical society published new healthcare guidelines earlier this week encouraging doctors to prepare themselves to turn away patients based on their age, or likelihood of getting better quickly.

According to The New York Times, one Italian town has already began refusing treatment to “the very old,” while another town has been refusing patients with coronavirus-induced pneumonia. 

In the surgeon general’s announcement Saturday, he also encouraged the public to do what they can to “flatten the curve,” a reference to an epidemiological phenomenon that emphasizes lessening the peak of the epidemic. 

According to Vox, flattening the curve involves enacting isolation strategies, including self-quarantines and social distancing, to delay the peak of the epidemic and prevent the virus from spreading as quickly. 

By stunting the transmission rate of the virus, society at-large can prevent doctors and hospitals from being inundated with patients all at once, increasing the chances of patients receiving treatment and the odds of lowering the mortality rate, reports the news agency. 

The Washington Post highlights the importance of not overloading the healthcare system with coronavirus patients, as other patients may end up with limited access to care and a higher-than-normal mortality rate. 

Now, factor in how stretched-thin U.S. hospitals already are during a normal, coronavirus-free week handling usual illnesses: patients with cancer and chronic diseases, those walking in with blunt-force trauma, suicide attempts and assaults. It’s easy to see why experts are warning that if the pandemic spreads too widely, clinicians could be forced to ration care and choose which patients to save…

“Slowing it down matters because it prevents the health service becoming overburdened,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We have a limited number of beds; we have a limited number of ventilators; we have a limited number of all the things that are part of supportive care that the most severely affected people will require.”

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