Surgeon General Urges Hospitals to Cancel Elective Surgeries in Coronavirus Hot Zones

March 14, 2020 Updated: March 14, 2020

Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged hospitals and other health care providers in coronavirus hot zones to consider suspending elective procedures, after the American College of Surgeons (ACS) suggested the same on Friday.

“Hospital & healthcare systems, PLEASE CONSIDER STOPPING ELECTIVE PROCEDURES until we can #FlattenTheCurve!” Adams wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

The top doctor of the nation argued that elective surgeries, a procedure that is not a medical emergency, could bring coronavirus into facilities, pull resources from personal protective equipment stores, and tax personnel who may be needed for coronavirus responses.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, elective surgery is a procedure that can be scheduled in advance.

“It may be a surgery you choose to have for a better quality of life, but not for a life-threatening condition. But in some cases it may be for a serious condition such as cancer. Examples of elective surgery include removing a mole or wart, and having kidney stones removed. It may also be done if other forms of treatment are not working,” according to the site.

In his Twitter post, Adams cited recommendations by the ACS, a national educational association for surgeons, which suggest that surgeons in coronavirus hot zones review all planned elective procedures. Hot spots in the United States include parts of New York, California, and Washington state.

“Each hospital, health system, and surgeon should thoughtfully review all scheduled elective procedures with a plan to minimize, postpone, or cancel electively scheduled operations, endoscopies, or other invasive procedures until we have passed the predicted inflection point in the exposure graph and can be confident that our health care infrastructure can support a potentially rapid and overwhelming uptick in critical patient care needs,” the ACS said in a statement.

The association also suggested that hospitals and other health care providers minimize the use of essential items needed to care for patients, including ICU beds, personal protective equipment, terminal cleaning supplies, and ventilators.

For surgeons outside the hot spots, the ACS recommend they follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to prepare.

The CDC suggests health care providers instruct patients to explore alternatives to face-to-face visits, including using available advice lines, patient portals, and online self-assessment tools, or call to a clinic staff if they become ill with symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

The facilities should also optimize the use of personal protective equipment in the event of shortages and identify flexible mechanisms to procure additional supplies when necessary.