Spectrum Health Lakeland is starting to put select appointments and procedures back on the calendar as the impact of social distancing measures begin to show in local COVID-19 numbers.
Elective procedures are not part of the change, and any emergency or urgent care will still be prioritized. But some procedures that could be safely postponed for a few weeks, but not longer, will start to be scheduled at Lakeland facilities.
“So for instance, if you’re following a patient that has cancer, we might be doing CT scans every other month to assess the response to chemotherapy," Lakeland president Dr. Loren Hamel explains, "missing that CT scan by a week or two is probably not a significant risk, missing it by two to three months will change treatment options.”
Other procedures could be surgery for something like gall bladder problems that become riskier as time goes on, or mammograms that shouldn't be pushed off indefititely.
Hamel said this loosening doesn’t mean people should stop following guidelines for hand washing, keeping distance, and staying home.
He said patients coming in for other care will be carefully screened and kept away from areas with COVID-19 patients. Hamel said health officials know community spread is happening in the County, and many people could be asymptomatic carriers. He said procedures will be scheduled that carry extra risk to patients if they're pushed off for too long.
Patients with appointments that had to be postponed will be contacted by their provider if their procedure is eligible for rescheduling.