Health-care systems in New Mexico are postponing elective surgeries and moving to video or telephone visits with doctors in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presbyterian Rust Medical Center

According to a Presbyterian Healthcare Services news release, its Presbyterian Medical Group is arranging phone or video visits for patients at specialty clinics and outpatient departments.

“Patients have the option for a visit via telephone or video visit, but they can also still have an in-person visit if needed,” said PHS spokeswoman Melanie Mozes in an email.

Many older patients with chronic conditions were transitioned to telephone visits the week before last, and clinic staff members are calling patients to discuss remote communication options, according to the release. If children need vaccinations, staff members direct the parents to a drive-thru site.

Also, according to the release, staff members ask patients COVID-19 screening questions during appointment-reminder calls. If the patient needs testing, employees send them to an appropriate site.

Lovelace Health System Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Serena Pettes said Lovelace Medical Group had implemented e-visits and video visits for most medical specialties. Patients can schedule appointments at 727-2727.

Surgeries

On Wednesday, the governor ordered that procedures that can wait three months without undue risk to a patient’s health be delayed to conserve personal protective equipment for medical personnel.

“Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s decision to postpone all elective procedures is in line with Presbyterian’s existing approach and we fully support the decision,” according to the release.

Doctors are still performing urgent and emergency surgeries.

PHS employees have already encouraged patients to delay hospital-based surgeries and outpatient procedures that and be put off without compromising their health. Bariatric surgery and joint replacements are examples of elective surgeries.

According to the release, postponing those operations allows critical staff members to work in other areas, as well as lessening the use of personal protective equipment. Mozes said the decision wasn’t based on available beds.

Lovelace Medical Group CEO Dr. John Cruickshank said Lovelace is delaying elective procedures as per the governor’s declaration as well.

“While some elective surgical cases can be postponed for a period of time, there are circumstances that require immediate and emergent attention,” he said. “Our surgeons are also adhering to the American College of Surgeons’ recommendations on elective surgical procedures during the COVID-19 occurrence.”

At UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center, hospital staff members have postponed elective surgeries in compliance with state order, but they had already begun ranking cases into tiers based on urgency and canceling procedures that could wait.

“We began canceling surgical cases that could wait longer than three months more than two weeks ago,” said SRMC President and CEO Jamie Silva-Steele. “We are also actively evaluating other less-invasive treatment plans for those cases that need to be completed within the three-month timeline to see if they can be pushed to lower tier levels without causing lasting issues to the patient.”

Every scheduled case is being evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team to determine which tier level that visit falls into, Silva-Steele said. Non-essential cases are being tracked to be scheduled when it’s appropriate.

“We are confident that we have implemented a decision-making process that will ensure the best outcomes for our patients — and for the community at large as we work to lessen the impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak,” Silva-Steele said.

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