Dr. Rod Hochman said his brother-in-law “was petrified” of going to the hospital for a doctor’s appointment, fearing he would catch the coronavirus. And Dr. Hochman RUNS the hospital. That fear isn’t limited to Dr. Hockman’s bro-in-law. You name the elective procedure and countless thousands of patients are taking a pass on going into the hospital.
An April study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology even said admissions for a serious type of heart attack dropped 38 percent after March 1, or after the pandemic hit. In news reports, people have specifically cited coronavirus worries as the reason for avoiding hospitals. So when it comes to elective plastic surgery, it’s not surprising patients are seeking another venue – one in which they feel is safer.
“We’re protecting our patients, we’re protecting our staff, we disinfect every room after anyone uses it,” says Mark D. Epstein, MD, a Long Island-based board certified plastic surgeon. “Our surgical facility is built to state-of-the-art hospital standards. It was only built a year and a half ago so we have all the HEPA filtration and air exchanges in place just like a hospital has. So we didn’t have to do any re-engineering on that end.”
Dustin Reid, MD, a fellow board certified plastic surgeon who lives and works in Austin, TX, says his operating suite is always sterile, but not having to share the suite with cases and patients and doctors he’s not all that familiar with is huge for him and his patients.
“It’s an operating room, so of course the conditions are sterile, but what has changed is the issue of aerosolized particles existing while we are in the room,” Dr. Reid shares with The Plastic Surgery Channel. “So we treat the surgical site just like clinical site in that patients are not allowed to have anyone come with them. We do a questionnaire-style triage system where we test for multiple factors. And once they’re here we treat everyone like they could potentially spread the disease.
“Because as you know, testing is not perfect,” Dr. Reid continues. “If you use symptoms as a guide, it’s not perfect. Now we already do this for any other illness — we’re always looking out for fevers or coughs of those kinds of things. But because of the unique nature of this disease — for example, when we’re getting the patient ready to be intubated, no one else is in the room except for those wearing N95 masks that have been fit tested.
“Once they’re asleep and covered, then other people can come back into the operating room because nothing can get aerosolized into the air. But when I’m doing rhinoplasty or other facial surgery, those patients are re-tested and then I wear N95 eye protection, etc. because I’m in the center of where that virus comes from even though they’ve all been tested. But we act like all patients are positive.”
The atmosphere in Dr. Reid’s OR has also been fine tuned.
“Have we tweaked somethings from an air handling standpoint? We have.”
Safer Scheduling AND Surgical Suites…
“We schedule our patients so there’s minimal, if any, waiting time in the reception area,” Dr. Epstein tells The Plastic Surgery Channel. “There’s never more than one person in there at a time.”
Things aren’t so different out West, in Texas Dr. Reid says he’s heard from patients that not only don’t they mind the extra precautionary steps his and board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Ashley Gordon’s practice has instituted, but they feel much safer getting procedures done in a surgical center much smaller in scope than those in hospitals.
The same is true with Dr. Epstein.
“Patients are very nervous about getting procedures done in the hospital,” he adds. “They have expressed that to me numerous times. They feel very comfortable having surgery in our facilities and facilities like it.”