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HMC postpones elective surgeries

Hilo Medical Center is postponing elective surgeries in an effort to preserve personal protective equipment as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Dr. Lovina Sabnani, chief of staff at Hilo Medical Center and an ear, nose and throat specialist, said the procedures being postponed are those that won’t harm the patient if not done immediately.

The move is being done for safety reasons and to save personal protective equipment “so when the (COVID-19) crisis hits hard, we are prepared and have enough supplies,” she said.

Sabnani said such measures are being taken throughout the country, and HMC is following suit.

“It’s not like we’re not doing any surgery at all, but the whole point of this is to reduce our use of personal protective equipment,” said general surgeon Dr. Dan Hudak. “(You) use a lot of that when you’re doing surgery, and the hospital wants to preserve those.”

During surgery, the surgeon, assistant to the surgeon and typically an operating room tech wear facial protection — which can include glasses, a complete face mask and a face shield — sterile gowns and sterile gloves and can sometimes require two pairs of everything for certain procedures, Hudak explained.

Additionally, everyone in the operating room has to wear a nonsterile mask and head gear.

While the hospital has “quite a bit” of PPE supplies in its reserves, Hudak said if HMC is suddenly inundated with COVID-19 patients, every single provider in the hospital who is treating those patients will be donned with gloves, masks and gowns, and those supplies will be used rapidly.

The hospital, however, will continue to perform surgeries when the patient is compromised or in a life-threatening condition, such as a Cesarean section; when surgeries must be performed within 12 hours or the patient will face harm, such as surgery for a fractured hip or a stable appendectomy; or medical issues that must be addressed within 5-7 days to avoid further deteriorating health.

Sabnani said the hospital administration and staff are “always thinking about the best for the community, and at this time, this is what we feel is best for the community.”

She also encouraged people to stay in touch with their medical providers, whether a primary care provider or surgeons, and follow through with taking their medications and staying healthy.

“We want to limit people getting sick and having to come to the (emergency room),” Sabnani said. “At some point, we might be overwhelmed.”

Email Stephanie Salmons at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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