As South Florida continues its phase one reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic, local hospitals are working to perform elective surgeries that had been put off while also keeping a priority on safety.
As director of cardiac surgery at Mercy Hospital in Miami, Dr. Allen Stewart is slowly rescheduling procedures that have been on hold for months.
Stewart said he had been averaging 15 heart surgeries a month, but he's now doing 7.
"Because we’ve had this eight or nine week delay there are a lot of patients that are built up that are now coming back in and we don’t want to overwhelm the system, so we are making sure that we obey our sterile technique, prevent any spread, we don't want to overrun our ICUs and floor beds," Stewart said.
Frontline medical workers at the hospital gathered Wednesday for lunch courtesy of Sergio's restaurant.
The hospital, like others in South Florida, is trying to shift some of its focus to pre-pandemic care.
“With elective re-launching, we’ve gone above and beyond to try to make sure people are safe and that there is a clear delineation of how we care for emerging patients and our elective patients," Mercy Hospital CEO David Donaldson said.
Hospital visitors are still having their temperatures checked, everyone still has to wear a facemask, and social distancing is practiced.
The health of hospital finances is also receiving equal attention. With fewer people seeking care and procedures on hold, hospitals throughout the country are losing money.
Across the U.S., it's estimated hospitals are losing $50 billion a month, leading to 134,000 hospital employees losing their jobs.
"COVID didn't cure heart attacks or coronary disease but people are afraid, people are afraid to go to the hospital and they're suffering at home," Stewart said.