Rothman Institute, other specialty practices begin clearing 6-week surgery backlog

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Friday, May 1, 2020
Action News coverage of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak

CENTER CITY (WPVI) -- Now that some elective surgery is allowed in Pennsylvania, doctors are working to clear 6 weeks of postponed procedures.

The Rothman Institute says it has 4800 patients on its list.

So it's operating longer each day, and 7 days a week.

"We'd normally operate from 6 in the morning till about 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon," says Rothman President Dr. Alex Vaccaro.

"We're now going till 6 or 7 at night," he adds. Overall, "We've tripled our operating time."

He noted he'd done 3 operations before 11 a.m. the morning Action News spoke with him.

Dr. Vaccaro says there are extensive protections to keep patients safe.

They must quarantine for 14 days, not have a fever, and to test negative beforehand.

Patients are also being prioritized, with the most urgent going first.

Then - "We look at other factors, such as how miserable you are. if you need a total joint arthroplasty, and you can't walk, you're next," says Dr. Vaccaro.

Schedulers then look at which procedures only need a 23-hour stay before discharge.

"We would prefer people not stay overnight in a hospital system. So we want to have cases we can do that day. Most total joint arthroplasties are discharged within 23 hours, that's not a problem." he says.

"Most spinal surgeries only require a 23 and half hour stay," he continues.

Elderly, obese, frail, or vulnerable patients are still being delayed.

"Studies have shown that if you get the virus after the surgery it can be very difficult to recover," he notes.

Dr. Alex Vaccaro says patients are so happy to have the surgery, they don't mind the post-op pain as much.

He understands. He's awaiting the OK to get some dental work done.