U.S. hospitals face a critical shortage of protective equipment and top federal officials have called for a halt to non-emergency surgeries amid the coronavirus pandemic. But some hospitals are ignoring the directive, raising concerns that patients and medical staff are at risk.
Hospitals including University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami as of Friday afternoon were still performing elective surgeries, such as for orthopedic problems, cataracts and other non-essential medical issues.
Elective surgery is a medical procedure scheduled in advance because it does not involve an emergency. Frequently, they are not a medical necessity. Examples include knee replacements or nose jobs.
Dr. Linda Alvarez, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union Committee on Interns and Residents, said medical residents across the country have contacted her with complaints that their hospitals are still performing procedures that aren't essential.
"What is crazy too is that these same residents are saying there is limited availability of N95 masks," said Alvarez, referring to the special masks that can protect against contracting COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. "To be using this personal protection equipment in ways that are not judicious or addressing the concerns of the general public safety is appalling."