It has been more than two months since the ban on elective surgery was ordered by Gov. Cuomo

As published in the Staten Island Advance

Jim is 59. Earlier this spring he came down with COVID-19, which damaged his heart; his cardiologist wants him to have an outpatient procedure that will prevent long term damage and a possible heart attack.

Dawn’s daughter is 19 and was scheduled to have her gallbladder removed in March. The operation never took place and for the past two months she has suffered in excruciating pain.

Tom’s wife desperately needs hernia surgery. The outpatient facility where it was to take place has been closed due to COVID-19 and when it reopens it’s likely to have a long backlog of patients, further delaying the procedure.

They are just a few of the situations relayed to me by constituents inquiring as to when a myriad of medical and dental procedures and the facilities where they are conducted are permitted to resume elective surgery.

Since elective surgeries where banned in mid-March, thousands of New Yorkers have learned through suffering, pain and worry, that just because a medical procedure is deemed “elective” does not mean that it isn’t a medical necessity for the patient in question. They run the gamut from cataract surgery or a prostrate biopsy, which usually take place at an outpatient facility, to far more serious procedures like a hip replacement, a mastectomy or even a heart operation taking place in a hospital.

Elective surgeries are simply those that can be scheduled in advance, as opposed to emergency surgeries which are classified as life-threatening, and the majority of which are the result of trauma related to an accident.

It has been more than two months since the ban on elective surgery was ordered by Gov. Cuomo and during that period, a number of public health officials, hospital administrators, doctors and patient advocates have warned of a “second epidemic” facing New York City and state; one resulting from patients who have had their health spiral downward because they have been unable to receive the medical care that would normally be available. Not only has the ban had a negative effect on patient care, it’s also cut-off a major and very important revenue stream for hospitals, forced the layoffs of medical professionals who work on surgery teams and pushed a number of privately owned facilities to the verge of bankruptcy.

Medical necessity and common sense tells us the time has come to resume elective surgery throughout the entire state. Medical professionals have dealt with the threat of infection since the dawn of modern medicine. More recently, the AIDS epidemic created new protocols which dramatically increased the use of personal protective equipment and heightened sanitary procedures aimed at protecting both the patient and the medical professionals in attendance.

The bottom line is that no sector of the American workforce is better trained or equipped to deal with the threat of COVID-19 infection than the medical professionals at the facilities where elective surgeries take place, and that is a key reason why they should be allowed to reopen.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been in contact with hospital administrators, surgeons, nurses, medical technicians and most importantly patients, who are ready and willing for the resumption of elective surgery. The only opposition seems to come from famously slow-moving bureaucrats in Albany and at City Hall.

Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting any medical facility should be forced to resume elective surgery. I am simply saying that those that are prepared and properly staffed should be allowed to reopen as soon as possible. Government needs to return the discretion back to medical professionals to use their years of extensive training and expertise to treat their patients as they see fit.

If the ban remains in place any longer, we will not only imperil the physical health of those waiting for long overdue testing or surgery, but also the financial health of hospitals, outpatient facilities and the medical professionals they employ.