ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Throughout the pandemic, elective surgeries have been put on hold intermittently depending on the state of rising cases, hospitalizations, and capacity issues. But what exactly is considered elective?
The societal understanding of what may be considered an “elective” surgery is not the definition put out by most hospital systems. According to URMC, just because your surgery was delayed, doesn’t mean its considered “elective.”
Carol Cross has been waiting to have a four-level circle fusion procedure on her spine since October.
“Discs were pressing on my spinal cords so I was losing feeling in my fingers and hands,” Cross said, “You would think elective is like plastic surgery or something that is like really wasn’t medically necessary but that definitely doesn’t seem to be the case.”
Due to URMC putting a pause on elective surgeries, Cross had to wait three months before she could be pain-free.
“It made me feel like people assume that I was having some unnecessary procedure done but on the other hand I was thinking of other people who were probably in worse situations than me that were still being considered elective,” Cross said.
Dr. Matt Miller with UR Medicine said there’s a difference between what is considered an “essential” and “non-essential” surgery.
“Any surgery that if we delayed it indefinitely or for an extended period of time that would bring harm to the patient. We would consider that an essential operation, anything that really could be put off indefinitely without risk of serious adverse effects to a given patient, we would consider nonessential from a time standpoint,” Dr. Miller said.
Meaning if your surgery has been deemed “elective” doesn’t mean it’s non-essential.
“I have these conversations with our surgeons on a daily basis, and believe me, the surgeons are advocating for their patients, and it’s really gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to see people who are suffering in one way or another, because to each individual patient, that is the most important thing to them,” Dr. Miller said.
And luckily Cross did advocate for herself. However, she said she thinks if she hadn’t advocated for herself, she still wouldn’t have her surgery by now.
“I definitely think they should reconsider what their definition of elective is. When you think about it. This is not something that I would choose to do. It’s something I had to do,” Cross said.
UR Medicine said in a statement they regret having to postpone these procedures but need “…the public to help by getting vaccinated, scheduling booster shots when eligible, masking indoors, and following other common-sense safety precautions to prevent the spread of infection…”