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State still finalizing "guidance" on resuming elective surgeries

ADHS doesn't have application for facilities to resume
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Posted at 7:06 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 22:06:49-04

The Arizona Department of Health Services is not yet ready to process applications for facilities prepared to restart elective surgeries when the statewide ban ends May 1.

Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order Wednesday outlining protocols for facilities to conduct elective surgeries after six weeks of only allowing emergency, essential procedures. Ducey initially ordered the ban to free up medical beds and supplies in anticipation of a surge of coronavirus cases.

Several hospitals and surgery centers said they would be ready to meet the requirements to resume elective surgeries. Those requirements include having a 14-day supply of personal protective equipment on hand, test all patients and surgical staff for coronavirus, and ensuring heightened levels of disinfection.

The Arizona Department of Health Services will grant permission to restart elective surgeries by exempting facilities from the prior surgery ban.

However, a spokesperson for ADHS emailed ABC15 Thursday afternoon to say the agency is still "developing guidance," and the process for requesting an exemption would be posted online when complete. It's unclear how soon that would occur.

The CORE Institute, which specializes in orthopedics, said its surgeons and specialty hospital would be prepared to resume all kinds of surgeries on May 1.

"We can begin to prioritize patients with the patients that have the greatest need and those who may still be able to wait a little bit," said Dr. Jason Scalise.

CORE, like many facilities, is still working out the details of operations. A critical issue will be whether surgery centers will see interruptions in the supply chain for PPE.

"Everybody’s taking a look at that and figure out where they can best accommodate and comply with those new set of conditions," Scalise added.

Banner Health, Arizona's largest hospital system, said could meet the governor's requirements by May 1, but stopped short of guaranteeing elective procedures would begin that day.

"While we are eager to meet the needs of patients who have been waiting for care," spokeswoman Becky Armendariz said in an email. "Personal protective equipment and testing will be critical factors in our decision to resume surgeries." She added Banner would share more information with doctors, staff, and patients when a final decision is made.

"As the executive order is lifted, we are prepared to schedule elective cases and ramp up as quickly as our doctors and their patients identify necessary services which we can provide," said Keith Jones, Communications Manager with Tenet Health. Tenet Health operates Abrazo hospitals and surgical centers in Arizona.

Administrators at Northern Arizona Healthcare, which operates Flagstaff Medical Center, said they were discussing when to resume elective surgeries, but they have not made any decisions yet. Flagstaff Medical Center has been at the epicenter of Arizona's coronavirus outbreak, testing scores of critical patients from the Navajo Nation. If they resume elective surgeries, medical facilities would be barred from obtaining additional PPE from state and county health departments.

We are dedicated to a safe and measured return to providing non-emergent care, including surgeries and procedures. As we continue to work through our plans and more details are finalized, we’ll update our patients and staff. Patients who were forced to delay surgeries during this time will be contacted directly.

HonorHealth is planning to begin performing elective surgeries and procedures on May 1 and is "dedicated to a safe and measured return to providing non-emergent care," according to a spokesperson. HonorHealth added they it is one of the only health systems in the country with a fleet of disinfecting robots. The robots use UV light to destroy germs that may survive the standard manual cleaning processes.