Elective surgeries allowed in Tennessee under safety guidelines

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Some surgeries and medical procedures put on hold can now proceed, but under very different conditions, after an executive order by Gov. Bill Lee’s was lifted.

Baptist Memorial Health Care wasted no time getting back into the business of elective surgeries.

“They’ve given us the green light to move back into surgeries and phases, so we’ve begun that today,” COO Dr. Paul Depriest said.

Dr. Depriest said they saw as much as a 50% decline in surgeries after Gov. Lee’s executive order was signed. Medical procedures deemed elective a month ago may be nearing semi-elective or even urgent now.

“The examples that I think about would be examples of someone with abdominal pain, maybe gall bladder disease,” he said. “It’s possible to delay that for a time, but it can be very urgent to have that done at some point in the future.”

One local family is waiting on Methodist Le Bohneur Hospital for their newborn baby to have a procedure on her vocal chords. With the order lifted, doctors can proceed, but her mother said baby Emma proved stronger than COVID-19. She’s now tolerating an oxygen machine and may not need surgery after all.

But for those who do, doctors at various hospitals, including Baptist, said they’ll be performed under new safety guidelines.

“We have identified zones within our facilities to care for COVID patients,” Dr. Depriest said. “Those zones are cleaned at a much more frequency, higher rate, to make sure the environment is safe for the next patient that needs care.”

All employees and patients also must have their temperature checked and answer questions about possible exposure before entering the hospital, and they’ve expanded coronavirus testing.

“We’ve begun testing all patients who are admitted to the hospital who are undergoing evasive procedure, and this week we’ve been expanding the testing of our employees,” Depriest said.

Baptist Health Care administrators said they lost a significant amount of money during the ban on elective procedures, but they were able to avoid any forced layoffs.

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