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Some Long Island hospitals to cancel elective surgeries

North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, one of

North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, one of the Northwell hospitals that has canceled elective surgeries due to an anticipated rise in coronavirus cases. Credit: Barry Sloan

Long Island hospitals are canceling elective surgeries in anticipation of a spike in new coronavirus cases as the pandemic continues to escalate.

The move is part of an effort across the country to free up hospital beds and other medical resources to fight the outbreak and slow its growth. That includes New York City, where hospitals will be required to cancel elective surgeries under an order to be signed Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday. 

“Everyone needs to do it. It’s absolutely that time,” de Blasio said. 

Long Island hospitals are following suit. Northwell Health, which operates numerous hospitals in Nassau and Suffolk counties, announced Sunday it will begin canceling elective surgeries Monday through April 15. It is also directing medical practitioners to postpone nonessential visits for the next month.

The decision does not apply to emergency surgeries. "Clinically necessary" procedures in outpatient settings and planned imaging procedures such as ultrasounds and MRIs will also proceed, according to a Northwell news release.

NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola and Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside are paring back elective procedures as well.

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Winthrop is canceling them "on a case-by-case basis," hospital spokeswoman Anne Kazel-Wilcox said Sunday. She noted some such procedures can have "life-changing ramifications, such as a woman needing a breast biopsy to determine if she has breast cancer."

South Nassau hospital is prioritizing emergency, urgent and ambulatory surgeries, but plans to "scale back elective surgeries during the next two weeks or sooner," spokesman Joe Calderone said.

The measures come amid mounting pressure to preserve medical facilities for a projected surge in coronavirus patients.

On Saturday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams wrote on Twitter: "Hospital & health care systems, PLEASE CONSIDER STOPPING ELECTIVE PROCEDURES until we can #FlattenTheCurve!"

The hashtag refers to a model for combating the pandemic that emphasizes slowing the number of new cases over time to ensure it does not overwhelm the health care system.

The American College of Surgeons on Friday issued a similar appeal, calling on hospitals, health systems and surgeons to minimize, postpone or cancel elective operations until we "can be confident that our health care infrastructure can support a potentially rapid and overwhelming uptick in critical patient care needs."

Some hospitals on Long Island have not yet taken that step. 

Rockville Centre-based Catholic Health Services of Long Island, which operates six hospitals, is not canceling elective surgeries, spokeswoman Chris Hendriks said Sunday.

Neither is Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. "We don't have as high a volume of surgeries as the other hospitals do, and many of our surgeries are emergency surgeries," said Robert Detor, chairman of NuHealth, which runs the hospital.

Long Island Community Hospital in Patchogue also has not canceled elective surgeries, spokeswoman Katherine Heaviside said Sunday.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Sunday the state has 3,000 intensive care unit beds, 80 percent of which are already occupied. Canceling unessential procedures may become a more widespread necessity to keep beds open, he said.

"We may get to a point where you can't do elective surgery," he said. "You can have your hip replaced next month, not now."

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