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Lift restrictions on elective surgeries


Several weeks ago we ran an article about how Palomar Health’s inability to perform elective surgeries due to the coronavirus pandemic had caused patient volumes to drop by 50% with a corresponding “significant” decline in revenues.

This also led to Palomar Health furloughing more than 200 health care workers.

This was part of the system’s ramping up in preparation for the peak numbers of Covid-19 patients that were expected to impact our area’s hospitals sometime in the next few weeks. 

While it is understandable that we want to be able to effectively treat all of those patients, we shouldn’t forget that there is a much larger population of people out there who have health care problems that are just as serious and which shouldn’t be shunted aside in our zeal to deal with one disease—no matter how contagious it is.

I spoke to a woman last week who has a young adult son who needs a kidney transplant and is undergoing dialysis treatments several times a week while waiting for operation. Strangely enough, such an operation is considered to be an elective procedure. So are procedures designed to fight such conditions as breast cancer.

I know, those are just anecdotal examples, but if you combine enough anecdotes you end up with data.

We have a host of medical procedures that are on hold that range from things such as knee replacements to hip replacements. An entire class of people who don’t happen to be at risk from the COVID-19 outbreaks—or at least as much as some others—whose entire well-being is being shunted aside. It’s as though our society has on blinders and can only focus on one health issue and has, in effect, created the equivalent of death panels that find one patient’s issues weighed in the scales and found wanting, while others are moved to the top of the list.

It is, to say the least, a strange and tragic form of triage.

This was a rational response when it looked as though hospitals throughout the United States might be overwhelmed but the original modeling was much more pessimistic than the reality. Even New York City had enough beds and ventilators to go around although they came close to reaching their limits. So it seems like that San Diego County will have enough, given how proactive this region has been. 

A not-so-unimportant factor in limiting our local hospital to only treating life-threatening or performing absolutely necessary procedures is that the health care system that we all support with our taxes is taking a big hit economically—just like many other businesses. Boo hoo! You might say. The health system is wealthy and can take it. However, that’s our money. If Palomar Health is hit badly, we are all impacted. 

If Palomar Health loses a lot of money that it normally collects for elective procedures, that means that it can’t spend as much money on people and equipment that benefit all of us whenever we go to the hospital or receive a treatment of any kind. 

This is not a small problem. Hundreds of U.S. hospitals have laid off or furloughed employees and jobs reports showed that many thousands of jobs lost in the health care industry. It seems counterintuitive, or even counter intelligent to be releasing thousands of health care workers into the job market when we are in the midst of the largest health care emergency of the last one hundred years. This is like beating ourselves on the head in order to make an ingrown toenail better.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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