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With Surgeries Delayed, Patients Wait With Anxiety — Some in Pain — As Hospitals Make Way for Coronavirus Cases

The Seattle Times | by Hal Bernton | March 29, 2020

Douglas Wood Scrubs

Dr. Douglas Wood, chairman of the surgery department at UW Medicine, said surgeries at UW Medical Center’s Montlake campus have dropped by half since the spread of the coronavirus prompted the cancellation of many procedures. (UW Medicine)

At UW Medical Center’s Montlake campus in recent weeks, surgeries have dropped by about half. A lot more could be postponed if more coronavirus patients are hospitalized there. That scenario — if it does happen — would likely unfold in April.

“We’re still at a phase where we feel we can do cancer operations. But we might get to a phase two or three weeks from now where … we can only do true emergencies — someone who might die right now,” said Dr. Douglas Wood, who chairs UW Medicine’s surgery department and helped develop the guidelines for the American College of Surgeons.

Wood is increasingly hopeful that a big surge will not happen, as the numbers of coronavirus patients last week were less than anticipated, but he says the UW must stockpile personal protective gear in case it does.

Wood says UW Medicine has left it up to individual surgeons to decide which cases to keep on the schedule and which to postpone. He has not heard of patients who contested these decisions. If there are complaints, cases could come under broader scrutiny from UW faculty and hospital leadership. MORE >>