May 1 marks the beginning of the re-opening of Ohio. It’s a gradual process, but the first step is to once again allow non-essential surgeries that don’t require an overnight stay or excessive PPE.
Hospitals cleared out in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 patients, and while hospital visits were not banned, many people chose to avoid them to minimize risk.
Now, hospitals will once again be ramping up operations, but Dr. Bob Falcone says he doesn’t expect them to be bustling with patients any time soon.
“Right now, it looks pretty good, and the curve, we think, is flattened," Falcone says. "But that could change and we don’t really know where we’ll be with potential second-wind COVID. So I think it will be a cautious re-opening."
Falcone is president of the Columbus Medical Association, which represents physicians here in Central Ohio. He doesn't expect a return to full operations until this fall.
That gradual re-opening, Falcone says, will mean that if there is another spike, hospitals will still be ready.
“We track this pretty carefully, and the procedures we’re doing don’t really require in-patient space, which is really the premium for seeing COVID patients," he says. "And the PPE situation is very good, as is our testing capability."
Falcone says it’s undeniable hospitals have taken an economic hit during this time, not just because of the order for non-essential surgeries, but because of patients who have stayed away out of an abundance of caution.
“Our hospital volumes have been at about 50-60%, when normally they’re at 85-90%. So that’s a pretty big loss of revenue,” he says
But Falcone's biggest concern is the health of the patients staying away.
“We are seeing people coming in late in the course of their disease, where they perhaps would have had a fairly simple uncomplicated course, now have a much more complicated course because of the wait,” he says.
Falcone adds that the risk calculus is straightforward.
“Your chances of getting COVID in a hospital are pretty remote," Falcone says. "Your chances of dying from a heart attack or a bad gall bladder or a stroke are pretty high. So it’s a pretty easy decision in my mind. If you need a doctor or hospital, go.”
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