Valley Baptist resumes elective procedures

HARLINGEN — You can get that skin growth biopsied. You can get that hernia repaired. You can find out the cause of those abdominal pains.

Valley Baptist Medical Center is once again performing those and other so-called “elective procedures,” said Dr. Vijian Dhevan, chief of surgery.

“There has been a varying stoppage of elective surgeries throughout the restrictions made by the government and those were reduced,” Dhevan said.

Daily American life came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Governments shut everything down, ordered everyone to stay home, and cancelled face-to-face doctor’s appointments. Hospitals were restricted to performing only “essential” medical procedures. To many people, something like a biopsy to determine if they might have cancer might seem anything but elective, but they’ve had to wait until the hospitals resumed normal operations.

“Right now everything has been approved to go back so we can do any elective surgeries as long as the hospital complies with the 15 percent rule set up by the state government,” Dhevan said.

This rule requires hospitals to have 15 percent of its space reserved for possible COVID-19 patients. And there’s more.

“As long as the hospital has an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to any influx of COVID patients, they can open up for elective surgeries,” he said.

PPE includes masks, gowns, face shields, hats and shoe coverings. Valley Baptist has plenty of that, and patients can feel safe coming in for their elective surgeries.

“They can come in for laparoscopic cholecystectomy, which is a procedure to remove a gallbladder,” Dhevan said. “Generally we don’t remove a gallbladder unless a patient experiences some discomfort. It’s not an emergency but it can cause patients a significant amount of discomfort. They can come in for those.”

He also said patients can come in for the repair of hernias. This isn’t necessarily an emergency although relief from its pain can feel urgent to the patient.

“A hernia is a defect in the hole in the abdominal wall that has some fat or some bowels sticking out,” he said. “Those are dealt with electively.”

What would he say to patients who still have some misgivings about coming in for these procedures?

“Valley Baptist took an aggressive approach in testing and making available specific units to house possible COVID-19 patients,” he said. “While doing that we maintained the safety of the rest of the patients including those coming to the operating room.”

Those safety measures include, again, the wearing of PPE equipment by patients, visitors and staff.

“We make sure that we are screening patients as they are coming in or leaving the hospital,” he said. “We make sure we minimize the exposure of any patient or their family member to possible situations that may cause them to have the infection.”

Patients wishing to schedule their elective procedures should reach out to their respective physicians to make arrangements.