Mar 19, 2020 - Health

Patients will bear the burden of hospitals' coronavirus preparation

Illustration of sign saying no hospitals
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Trump administration is urging hospitals to postpone elective surgeries to make room for coronavirus patients — and hospitals do need to free up more beds.

Yes, but: It's worth remembering that "elective" is a broad term, and these decisions — even if they're the right ones — will have real consequences for real patients.

Case in point: NBC News published a heart-wrenching story last night about a patient who needs a liver transplant, but whose transplant surgery — scheduled for later this month — was canceled amid concerns about the coronavirus.

  • To preserve beds in their intensive care units, some hospitals are only performing transplant surgeries for the patients most at risk of death, NBC reports.
  • Prolonging even more routine procedures — like knee replacements or dental procedures — may be difficult for some patients, even if it's ultimately safer for them and the community as a whole.

What they're saying: This plan "will not only preserve equipment, but it also allows doctors and nurses to help those that are on the front lines, and it will protect patients from unnecessary exposure to the virus," CMS administrator Seema Verma said Wednesday.

Go deeper: Pence asks hospitals to delay elective procedures amid coronavirus pressure

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