Hospitals respond to elective procedures resuming

Hospitals respond to elective procedures resuming

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - There was a much awaited announcement coming down from the state Wednesday, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson and state health officials saying elective procedures can start back up as soon as April 27.

The announcement comes after several Northeast Arkansas hospitals furloughed employees, and made significant changes to their business operations.

“All those health illnesses that were here three months ago are still out there and we need to continue caring for them and we stand here ready to serve you again," said Gary Paxson, president and CEO of White River Health System in Batesville.

Officials at WRMC say COVID-19 put a halt on elective procedures, leaving many concerned with their health.

That same sentiment could be felt about 70 miles away at St. Bernard’s Medical Center in Jonesboro.

“We have worried about these patients because those were elective surgeries that we canceled and it was important to do that at the time, but at some point, those elective problems become more urgent problems and that’s what we want to try to avoid," said Connie Hill, vice president of St. Bernards Heart Care Center, Cancer Center and Preoperative Services.

But, with the governor’s recent announcement to allow those cases to start up again. they are not preparing to serve more during this pandemic.

All of the hospitals have seen an estimated loss in business revenue.

According to one St. Bernard’s official, Mitchell Nail, the entire health system had to furlough around 50 employees, many of them working for Health and Wellness, after seeing about $30 million a month lost for not having these procedures.

White River Medical Center says around 200 employees voluntarily went into furlough, many others took salary cuts and hours have been decreased after seeing between 40 to 50 percent reduction in their business revenue.

AMMC made adjustments due to the COVID-19 impact and they do not have numbers on how many people were impacted, one official says the hospital estimates a 30 percent monthly financial loss with any state or federal funding.

But, other officials in the county have been working to help relieve that problem, and the hospital released this statement Wednesday:

“Arkansas Methodist Medical Center (AMMC) in Paragould would like to thank Representative Jimmy Gazaway and Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon for their work with the Arkansas Community and Economic Development Program to secure a Community Development Block Grant. AMMC has taken measures recommended by Governor Asa Hutchinson to prepare for COVID-19 and to keep our community safe. Due to limiting our services, we have seen a significant decrease in inpatient admissions, surgeries, emergency room visits and outpatient diagnostic procedures. The ACDEP grant will help ensure the financial future of our hospital.”
Barry Davis, AMMC president and CEO

While that may help with future operations, day to day operations are still evolving.

“Keep in mind this is an incremental step into this new world," Paxson said.

Even in this new world, there are still old concerns, especially regarding personal protective equipment and testing.

But, all the hospitals told Region 8 News they are covered.

“We have plenty of PPE to take care of our surgery schedule as it resumes and it completely ramps up, as well as PPE to take care of our current inpatient volume and any influx of our COVID patients if they come or should we see a resurge," Hill said.

When it comes to these patients having to be cleared for the virus 48-hours before their procedures, each hospital said those tests would more than likely not be the rapid testing devices.

“Even in this era, the priority of testing still remains and the highest two priorities are critically ill patients and health care workers," Paxson said.

He added that the turnaround for lab results have been moving much faster.

They are also telling the community to not be scared to come to the hospitals.

“Arkansas Methodist Medical Center will be following guidelines suggested by the state and the by the CDC to keep our community safe. Safety is a priority for our hospital and a priority for our community,” said Tori GIbson Thompson, director of The Foundation and Marketing for AMMC.

They say they do understand these times can be stressful.

“For a little while, this will be our new normal," Hill said

But, they are also saying we may have to define what that new “normal” looks like.

“The big question, I think, looms is ‘does normal on the outside of this look like what normal was a year ago.’ I firmly believe the answer to that is no," Paxson said.

There is uncertainly about how this all will play out; however, all of these hospitals are looking toward the state for help.

Each hospital is also waiting on those guidelines to come down so that can make proper adjustments for the future.

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