Up to 30% of elective surgeries could be canceled due to coronavirus

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic rages on, there is a worry that healthcare systems will be overwhelmed by an influx of patients. In order to free up limited hospital beds for individuals battling the virus, hospitals are postponing many elective procedures, including ones deemed to be non-essential. According to leading data and analytics company GlobalData, 15-30% of elective surgeries could be canceled due to measures put in place to prevent further spread.

Eric Chapman, Medical Devices Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The market for aesthetic injectables, implants, bariatric surgery and cosmetic procedures will be especially vulnerable since these procedures are non-urgent and can be postponed without majorly affecting quality of life.”

In England, National Health Service (NHS) hospitals will suspend non-urgent elective surgeries for at least three months to free up resources. It has also been requested that hospitals discharge inpatients who are deemed to be without medical risk. The NHS hopes that these measures will free up tens of thousands of hospital beds across England.

In Canada, provinces are also deciding to cancel elective surgeries. The Government of Saskatchewan recently declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will reduce the number of elective surgeries as of March 23, including surgeries related to cancer management. Patients with urgent medical needs will still be scheduled to have their procedures. The neighboring province of Manitoba is also taking similar measures to free up resources.

Chapman continues: “Even for private US healthcare systems, individual medical centers are taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to reduce the burden on hospitals. In Texas, CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System and UT Health East Texas are reviewing elective surgeries to determine which procedures should be continued. Such surgeries might include those required for a diagnosis, or to improve quality of life.

“This follows advice from the federal government and the American College of Surgeons to delay elective surgeries. However, individual health systems have the liberty to make decisions based on the unique needs of their communities. In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz announced on March 20 that elective surgeries and non-emergency dental procedures will be postponed to free up resources, beginning on March 23.”

Surgeries for aesthetic indications are also rapidly declining. In South Korea, a 70% reduction of patients seeking treatment has occurred since January 2020. This includes medical tourists seeking cheaper therapies. In some cases, clinics are voluntarily turning away patients to protect their staff and prevent the collapse of entire clinics.

Chapman concludes: “As more cases emerge, GlobalData expects that many more countries and healthcare systems will be limiting surgeries to the most critical cases.”

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