For the first time since March, certain hospitals in Upstate New York will be allowed to resume limited outpatient surgeries in the coming days and weeks. State guidelines will determine which facilities can once again start performing everything from general surgery to orthopedics.
The trends of COVID-19 patients in a county and whether there is a buffer of hospital beds are two of the main criteria hospitals need to meet in order to perform outpatient surgeries. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, central New York fits that criteria.
"Central New York can resume elective surgery because their capacity number is lower. The number of cases is lower," Cuomo said during a visit to Syracuse Tuesday.
But it won't happen overnight. In Syracuse, Upstate University Hospital won't put a date when they will return. Crouse and St. Joseph's expect to start performing elective surgeries in mid-May. St. Joseph's Health Emergency Management Manager Joe Bick said the hospital is currently prioritizing the hundreds of backlogged surgeries canceled from early March on.
"It's not like the deli counter, where you take a number, and when your number comes up it's your turn," said Bick. "With all health care, your condition dictates the speed of care provided, and that will still be the case as we look to reschedule."
There are other considerations for smaller hospitals in the area with fewer COVID cases. Oswego Health will wait until June 1 to begin offering elective surgeries, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Duane Tull.
"One of the keys is testing, and the other key is personal protective equipment," Tull said. "Both of those remain are limited in this area. And until we can surpass that limitation, we are going to be cautious in saying we can start back up."
Hospital have been strained financially in the wake of COVID-19. Hospital employees have been furloughed across the region. Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said beyond the medical necessity, restarting elective surgeries has another positive.
"It's also good for the economy for some of these employees to get back to work. It's also good for the supply chain. So we're very happy about that," McMahon said.