SAN ANTONIO – Patients who were forced to put elective surgeries on hold may soon be heading back in for the procedure. On Friday, Governor Greg Abbott issued an order that loosened the restrictions on surgeries in Texas.
Many cancer patients were among those who had to wait for the news. Dr. Michael Keller with Texas Oncology said the hardest part of the past few weeks was telling his patients, “no.”
“We spend all this time doing consultations and time in and acquiring the patient’s trust so that they allow us to do these these sometimes very invasive, large operations and then turn around and say we can’t do it," Keller said. “And in having to be there to listen to the patient’s anxiety and concern, that’s been very difficult because it’s not what we were trying to do. We were trying to treat patients. We weren’t trained to just sit on problems and not do anything.”
Keller said that surgery is a major component of treating cancer patients, but many of them did not meet the qualifications to allow for them under the Governor’s order issued in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were only allowed to proceed with surgeries in the case where the patient’s life was threatened so essentially emergency only procedures," Keller said. “And while a number of cancer cases or are urgent and most definitely important, they didn’t quite fall under the category of emergency where the patient’s life was imminently in danger. And so we’ve had a large number of cases or we simply just had to put a hold on them.”
Keller said they are prepared to move forward with those surgeries following the guidelines for social distancing and proper protective equipment.
“Everyone will be donning masks. Everyone will maintain distancing, will minimize personal exposure in the operating room and in the clinic, and really only do the essential steps necessary with the minimal number of people available to safely proceed with the operations,” Keller said.
Some hospitals have already announced plans to move forward with surgeries. Christus San Rosa Health System and The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio said surgeries will resume on April 22, consistent with Abbott’s orders.
The hospitals will have several precautions in place, however, like limiting visitors, screening everyone with temperature checks, and requiring everyone to wear masks.
Keller said while the last few weeks have been tough, he and his colleagues are eager to get back to work.
“We spend all this time doing consultations and time in acquiring the patient’s trust so that they allow us to do these these sometimes very invasive, large operations and then turn around and say we can’t do it,” Keller said. “And in having to be there to listen to the patient’s anxiety and concern, that’s been very difficult because it’s not what we were trying to do. We were trying to treat patients. We weren’t trained to just sit on problems and not do anything.”
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.
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