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U of L Health Faces Four Weeks Of Backlogs For Elective Surgeries

Michelle Hanks

It will likely take until September for University of Louisville Health to catch up on a backlog of elective procedures after they were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

University officials plan to begin performing non-emergency surgeries and procedures at about half the capacity it did before the pandemic starting on Wednesday.

“If we go back to more normal volumes beginning in June, we think it’s probably going to take us till about September to really get caught up on everything because we’d have a more normal schedule plus catching up on that volume moving forward,” said Chief Medical Officer Jason Smith.


Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order in late March ceasing all elective procedures to limit the spread of the virus and increase hospital capacity for patients with COVID-19. The delay has led to an estimated four week backlog of procedures, Smith said.

Beshear reversed the order in late April, allowing non-urgent/emergency health care services, radiology and lab services.

U of L Health has already begun opening outpatient procedures, but plans to begin inpatient procedures including operations on the abdomen and chest, such as a heart procedures, Smith said.

Anyone who is admitted to the hospital will be tested for the coronavirus regardless of symptoms. Testing will not be required for patients coming in for simple procedures such as X-rays, but patients will be screened for symptoms and asked to wear a mask, Smith said.

“If you’re coming in for something like an operation, a cath lab procedure, some endoscopy, these things have a more invasive nature, then we will require testing before you come to the hospital,” he said.

The hospital cut its ordinary work volume in half over the last seven weeks to brace for a surge in cases, Smith said. That was important at the time to increase testing and protective medical supplies, but now it’s important for people who have put off care to return and engage with their healthcare providers.

“We’ve got a lot of testing capacity, and I want to send the message out to the patients in the Commonwealth and Louisville, don’t continue to put off health care,” Smith said.

The hospital did not have to lay off any staff as a result of the financial losses, but Smith said the U of L Health is not likely to recover financially until the first and second quarter of next year.

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