Photo provided
                                Dr. Leah Oman is one of the surgeons at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center who will be able to return to performing elective surgeries on Monday.

Photo provided Dr. Leah Oman is one of the surgeons at WhidbeyHealth Medical Center who will be able to return to performing elective surgeries on Monday.

Hospital resuming elective surgeries

WhidbeyHealth Medical Center officials have a timeline for reopening services, clinics and even its cafe as the community gradually recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.

It begins Monday, May 18 with re-starting of elective, or non-urgent, surgeries at the hospital, which were halted by Gov. Jay Inslee so that personal protective equipment could be preserved to keep health care workers safe from the coronavirus. Inslee announced a phased approach to reopening the state.

At an online hospital board meeting Wednesday, Chief Operations Officer Colleen Clark said there is a backlog of people who have been waiting for elective surgeries and they will be prioritized.

“We want to make sure we are getting the most critical patients in for surgery,” she said.

The hospital will take extraordinary safety precautions, officials said. Clark said surgery patients will be tested for COVID-19 and then asked to isolate before a procedure.

In addition to the current protective measures in which visitor access to the hospital is limited and everyone who enters is screened, all members of teams in the operating room will be swabbed regularly and tested for COVID-19, the hospital reported in a press release. The precaution will cost several thousand dollars a month since the lab fee is $125 per test.

Beginning Monday, the hospital will schedule three elective surgeries a day, not including Caesarian births and emergency surgeries.

Dr. Leah Oman, a WhidbeyHealth general surgeon, stressed the importance of returning surgical services to the island.

“I’m eager to get patients back on track with planned procedures because I know how great the need is for certain surgical services,” she said in a press release.

“I am also absolutely confident in the safety of our facilities here at WhidbeyHealth, which is always our first priority.”

The halting of elective surgeries had a big impact on the hospital’s revenues. CEO Ron Telles said at an early meeting that 70 percent of the hospital’s income comes from outpatient services and, as a result, insurance reimbursements have been reduced by $2 million a month during the pandemic.

On June 2, a new walk-in clinic will open in Clinton.

On June 8, all the other clinics will reopen. Currently the outpatient services are consolidated at the Cabot Drive clinic in Oak Harbor.

On June 21, the hospital’s cafe will be reopened, but at 75 percent capacity. In addition, cardiac and diabetes classes will begin again.

The cafeteria will reopen at full capacity at a date to be determined.

The hospital reopened rehabilitation services on May 11.

Hospital officials said many people still seem reluctant to go to the hospital.

“I think the public needs to know it’s safer to come to the hospital than the grocery store,” Hospital Commissioner Ron Wallin said.

People interested in an elective surgical procedure can call 360-678-6799.

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