TAMPA, Fla. - Elective medical procedures like surgery for chronic pain, treatment for some cardiac bypass patients, and even routine cleanings at the dentist all stopped five weeks ago. The governor made the call to save resources for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases.
Now, some healthcare workers have taken pay cuts or been furloughed due to the lack of revenue.
During a normal week, The Woman’s Group sees hundreds of patients at its South Tampa location. But lately, those volumes are down by at least half.
"We have had to ask some staff to stay home, we have cut hours, reduced hours so we compressed the decreased number of patients into a tighter time frame," explained founder Dr. Madelyn Butler "For most doctors, it has been almost a complete shutdown and the whole medical profession is really suffering."
At Sarasota Memorial Hospital, there was a $16-million plunge in revenue in the last two weeks of March alone. Officials say the number of hospital inpatients is down about 50% and traffic to seven urgent care centers has fallen by 75%.
"We have had to furlough a number of employees from the organization, we’ve tried to do that in a very respectful and thoughtful way so we’re continuing to pay everyone’s benefits while they’re furloughed, we’ve given people extra PTO time to be able to fall back on," SMH President & CEO David Verinder explained in a YouTube video directed at staff.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, AdventHealth, BayCare and Tampa General Hospital also report a significant financial impact.
Last week, the Florida Medical Association sent a letter to the governor, urging him to lift the executive order and let physicians start seeing patients again, saying they are the ones who are really suffering.
"The physicians of Florida feel that it’s time to lift the restriction, and to do it in a very safe manner," Butler said.
DeSantis pointed out, the recommendation to stop many procedures and appointments was from the Centers for Disease Control. According to DeSantis, bed space is no longer an issue across the state and has said he agrees these elective procedures should start again soon.
AdventHealth and TGH say they’re gearing up to start scheduling surgeries for when the governor’s executive order expires on May 8.
"Moving forward, all patients that will have surgeries and procedures here at Tampa General Hospital will be tested within 48-hours of their procedure, and we’re looking to start our full elective schedule starting Monday, May 11," said Dr. Tapan Padhya, Chief of Staff at TGH.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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