California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that California hospitals can consider resuming health care procedures that were deferred because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision that has been met with hesitation by nurses.
Elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures, including heart valve replacements and tumor removals, were delayed to protect patients from being exposed to COVID-19, according to a press release from Newsom’s office. In light of California hospitals now being better prepared for more COVID-19 patients, hospitals are allowed to begin rescheduling appointments that had been delayed, the press release states.
“It’s in the best interest of the overall health of our state to allow these procedures to resume when they can be done safely,” Newsom said in the press release.
Health officials acknowledged that progress has been made toward making testing and contact tracing, which can help identify and isolate those with the disease, more widely available, according to the press release.
Newsom also announced in the press release that President Donald Trump promised to send California 100,000 testing swabs next week and 250,000 the following week. Nurses of the National Nurses United union, however, remain unconvinced of the Trump administration’s efforts to provide hospitals with adequate protective equipment.
“We know there continues to be insufficient testing and screening for the virus,” alleged Bonnie Castillo, executive director of National Nurses United, in a statement. “Until we have these consistently in place, it’s short sighted to restart elective surgeries without reliable protections.”
According to Castillo, nurses in the union are still concerned about exposing health care workers and patients to the disease. She added that many patients with acute medical needs, such as maternal health, pediatric and oncology patients, in addition to those with COVID-19, should be prioritized over those receiving “boutique,” or elective, services.
Some Bay Area hospitals feel adequately prepared to start resuming delayed, non-urgent surgeries. All health care workers, patients and visitors are screened before entering UCSF Health and Stanford Health Care hospitals, according to hospital spokespeople.
COVID-19 patients at UCSF Health are treated on a separate floor, according to UCSF Health spokesperson Suzanne Leigh. She added that delayed surgeries and procedures are being rescheduled and prioritized based on urgency.
Health care workers at Stanford Health Care, including those who are asymptomatic, will be tested for COVID-19 this week, said Dr. Sam Shen, an emergency medicine physician and associate chief quality officer at Stanford Health Care.
“It’s very important for people to not be exposed to patients who are COVID-positive, but at the same time, it’s important for people who need health care to get that help,” Shen said. “I feel very confident in what we have done to prepare already.”