Hilo Medical Center resumes elective surgeries

  • SHIROMA

  • Courtesy of HILO MEDICAL CENTER Director of Surgical Services Jeanean Dillard, anesthesiologist Dr. Randy Gerber and operating room technician Brendan Wong.

Hilo Medical Center has resumed performing elective surgeries, but those seeking such care will be required to take extra precautions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, the hospital postponed such surgeries in an effort to preserve personal protective equipment as the COVID-19 crisis escalated.

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Jeanean Dillard, a registered nurse and director of surgical services, said HMC analyzed guidelines from a number of medical organizations to ensure the hospital is meeting safety standards.

HMC will require a negative COVID-19 test prior to elective surgeries, after which Dillard said patients will be given instructions to self-quarantine if possible, practice social distancing and self-monitor for symptoms until their surgery.

Patients also will be called and screened the day before their surgery and will be screened for symptoms again when entering the hospital, she said.

A no-visitor policy remains in place at HMC.

Assistant Hospital Administrator Lisa Shiroma said HMC began performing elective surgeries Monday, but is taking a “phased approach.”

By Wednesday, between six and 10 elective surgeries had been performed.

Emergent and urgent surgeries — surgeries that must be done immediately or within 12 hours — still took place in recent weeks. However, prior to the pandemic, Dillard said HMC had about 100 surgical cases per week, at least 80% of which were elective.

Personal protective equipment is not as critical of a concern as it was earlier in the pandemic. Shiroma said HMC assessed how much PPE is available.

Dillard said enough time has passed since outbreaks of the disease first hit areas such as New York City.

“The further away you get from that chaos, the more time the companies and the vendors have … to produce (PPE),” she said.

As of April 24, HMC had 118,150 surgical masks, 16,300 N95 masks, 1,797,800 gloves, 44,660 gowns and 2,585 face shields in its inventory.

Being able to again offer elective surgeries sends a message to the community, Dillard said.

“We’re going to be as prepared as we can to take care of them. … (It) gives me a sense we’re going to be able to live in this environment. My whole life is not on hold forever. We just have to be smart about what we do and how we move forward.”

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“The fact that we have a team of very smart nurses, physicians and leaders in our hospital, making tough choices, making right choices according to research and medical (organizations), the community should rest assured they’re in good hands,” said HMC spokeswoman Elena Cabatu.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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