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President of state surgeons’ society critical of elective surgery limits

The President of the New York State Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons is critical of Governor Kathy Hochul’s executive order limiting elective surgical procedures at hospitals facing capacity issues due to COVID-19.

Dr. John DiPreta calls the policy well-intentioned, but says it may make things worse for patients across the state. He says the policy fails to consider important factors.

“Primarily, it’s important to challenge the notion that certain procedures are ‘elective’ — a term that often is misunderstood to indicate that such procedures are ‘optional’ and therefore not critically important to a patient’s health and well being. For many patients, orthopaedic surgical procedures are essential interventions that resolve profound pain and debilitation that undermine both the physical and mental health of those who suffer.”

“Unfortunately, due to policies earlier in the pandemic that prohibited ‘elective surgeries,’ and despite enhanced safety protocols and progress in the fight against COVID-19, thousands of patients in New York State with debilitating pain were not allowed to receive treatment, and were also hesitant to engage or re-engage with the healthcare system resulting in delays to care. These delays in surgeries and procedures ultimately resulted in prolonged pain and suffering, significant medical deterioration, and materially impacted patients’ prognoses, morbidity and/or treatment plans. It is important the Legislature, the Executive and regulatory partners understand how detrimental framing ‘elective surgeries’ as optional interventions has become for patients.

“Secondarily, the order unintentionally sends an erroneous signal that accessing healthcare of any kind presents a danger to the patient. Providers have instituted broad and effective COVID-19 protocols that have resulted in demonstrably safe access to care. Nevertheless, we saw volumes across many service lines, including primary care and chronic disease management, fall off significantly as the pandemic evolved. Thousands of seriously and chronically ill patients stopped or limited their pursuit of care vital to their lives and livelihoods. That cost has yet to be fully measured or understood, and should not be exacerbated.”

DiPreta says ultimatelty, providers are best able to determine what their patients need.