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Coronavirus Health

El Paso hospitals can resume elective procedures, but change will be slow

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This story has been updated with a statement released on Thursday, April 23, by Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare.

El Paso hospitals are making preparations to offer some elective procedures for patients after Gov. Greg Abbott released his “Opening Texas” executive orders late last week, though a return to normal operations is still weeks away.

Abbott announced plans on Friday to get the state’s economy going by signing three executive orders. The one allowing hospitals to be able to offer some elective surgeries goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. 

“Our hospitals are safe for surgical care with carefully designed protocols to minimize staff and physician exposure, and patient risks,” Monique Poessiger, communications manager for The Hospitals of Providence, said in a statement. 

“Following the governor’s executive order, we are carefully evaluating and scheduling elective cases as doctors and their patients identify necessary services which we can provide,” Poessiger said.

University Medical Center said it will wait until COVID-19 is clearly on the decline in El Paso before offering elective procedures.

“After all of the criteria-required milestones by the governor’s plan have been attained, such as two weeks of declining infections, available capacity for non-COVID-19 patients, etc., and we have ample resources and capacity to care for existing and projected COVID-19 patients, we will review the possibility of allowing elective surgeries to take place,” UMC spokesman Ryan Mielke said in a statement. “Until that time, we are focused on our community’s health and recovery during the current pandemic.

Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare officials said they would resume some non-emergency services on next week.

“With Governor Abbott’s recent executive order modifying previous restrictions on surgeries and procedures, combined with data indicating that the growth rate of the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 has slowed and the number of COVID-related hospitalizations has plateaued, we have made the decision to resume non-emergent, clinically necessary elective procedures and surgeries in Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare facilities beginning on Monday, April 27,” the hospitals said in a statement. 

Hospitals in El Paso and across the country have had to reduce staffing and pay as elective procedures essentially stopped as COVID-19 spread.

The Trump administration issued guidelines on Monday for when hospitals could resume offering elective procedures.

In his executive order directed at making some elective procedures available for patients, Abbott states allowed for elective procedures to resume if they “would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.”

The other two executive orders allow “retail-to-go” pickups to take place at retail stores starting on April 24, while state parks were reopened on Monday. In El Paso, though, The Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife said “that Franklin Mountain State Park and Hueco Tanks State Park (in El Paso) will remain closed until further notice due in part to the local COVID-19 trends,” the city of El Paso said in a news release.

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Joe Rutland

Joe Rutland is a freelance journalist who lives in El Paso. He's a former assistant city editor with The El Paso Times and has worked for newspapers in Texas and Arizona as a reporter, columnist, and copy editor.

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