AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas governor’s restrictions on elective surgeries amid the coronavirus pandemic have now expired, and starting this week, surgeons are getting ready to help more patients.
Gov. Greg Abbott banned all non-emergency surgeries in March. Then, in April, some elective surgeries could resume with restrictions from April 22 to May 8. The ban and restrictions were in place to allow the healthcare system to focus on COVID-19 and make sure there was no overloading of the system.
As a result, according to a surgeon at Texas Orthopedics, those restrictions kept their doors closed and left patients in chronic pain.
“That immobility and increase in pain is only compounded when (patients) are undergoing a pandemic because all they can do is sit around and think about how much they hurt,” said Dr. Tyler Goldberg, an orthopedic surgeon at Texas Orthopedics. “They can’t be active at all so that’s going to have tremendous effects on them. So when they’re ready to go they want to have their surgeries as soon as possible.”
Starting this week those restrictions are gone after they expired Friday, May 8. That means some patients who have knee and hip problems or arthritis can get in for surgery again.
But things will be different because of the virus. Goldberg at Texas Orthopedics said they're insisting all patients be tested for COVID-19 and that they self-isolate seven days before surgery. They’ll also need to go home the same day.
“We’re still doing the surgery with universal precautions so we’re going to pretend that the patient has COVID-19 and treat them like they have COVID even if they do not,” said Dr. Goldberg. “If the tests were negative, we’re still going to use universal precautions because, don’t forget, the tests themselves are not 100% accurate.”
He said due to the pause in surgeries, there’s now a huge backlog of patients that need to go through the system.
“My waitlist has basically quadrupled,” said Dr. Goldberg. “I don’t keep a hundred patients – it’s probably around 115 now. I don’t keep 115 patients on my surgery waitlist routinely. It used to be three to four months to get on the surgery schedule. Now it’s going to take four to five months.”
Dr. Goldberg said they are going to be very cautious as they open up Monday. He said just because restrictions are easing, it does not mean we’re out of this crisis. If a patient they’re treating does end up having COVID-19, they’re afraid they’ll have to shut down all over again.
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