“The first priority is that the demand for resources,” he said. “PPE, staff, ventilators, beds, and so forth.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines are clear: elective surgeries can resume if the treating hospital has adequate capacity. That means at least 20% of ventilators and beds, including in the ICU, must be available for use. Patients must undergo COVID-19 testing 72 hours before a procedure. They arrive alone and are screened at the door where their temperature and symptoms are checked.
“Even despite the screening process, we always assume it could be a situation where someone is COVID positive,” Cole said.
The universal precautions surgeons normally take have been intensified, especially when it comes to delivering anesthesia.
“I feel quite comfortable saying that, knowing how our healthcare providers have been kept safe in the environment of the hospital, I can comfortably and confidently say patients can undergo surgery and be safe as long as all of these things are instituted and followed methodically,” Cole said.
From joint replacements to spinal procedures, Cole estimates it will take 30 to 90 days to catch up on the backlog of patients at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.
“This is the first day I’ve seen a number of patients coming in saying, ‘I have to get this managed. I have significant pain and dysfunction and I can’t work with my current situation,’” he said. “There is a tremendous amount of gratification and emotional satisfaction that comes from doing what we love to do … I’m very grateful that we’re back in the saddle even if it’s not full throttle.”