Portland, Maine – The nine local health organizations within MaineHealth are suspending elective medical procedures and postponing non-urgent office visits to its practices in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Those cancellations are expected to take place by end of the day Friday.
“Supporting public health efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Maine is one of the approaches we can take to protect our patients, families and care teams,” said Joan Boomsma, MD, chief medical officer of MaineHealth. “Keeping patients at home who are scheduled for non-urgent services rather than having them come to the hospital or office will help keep them safe and reduce the spread of coronavirus.”
During a Sunday evening press conference, Gov. Janet Mills outlined a number of steps and recommendations for dealing with the outbreak, one of which was for hospital systems to suspend elective procedures. At MaineHealth, such a step was already in the planning stages for the nine local hospital systems in its network in Maine and Carroll County, N.H. MaineHealth has made the decision to move ahead with those cancellations, a process that will roll out over the next five days.
MaineHealth is asking that patients not call to check on the status of a procedure or office visit, but rather await notice from the hospital or practice.
“We need our front-line people available to help us manage the calls we are receiving with respect to COVID-19, which are considerable,” said Boomsma. “While it is understandable that people want information about their pending procedures, calling at this time wouldn’t be productive and could hamper our efforts to support patients with critical needs.
“We want to emphasize that, if someone calls today, we may not be able to provide exact information because we are still in the process of determining what care can and should be postponed,” said Boomsma. “We ask that people wait to be notified by their health care provider rather than calling and overwhelming our hospitals and practices.”
Boomsma also noted that MaineHealth doesn’t take such a step lightly.
“We recognize that for our patients this is much more than an inconvenience,” she said. “There is anticipation and often anxiety ahead of any medical procedure, and having it completed often brings physical and mental relief. We ask, however, that you please consider how this will help us support our communities as they confront the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Cancelling elective procedures and non-essential office visits will allow MaineHealth to redirect its most scarce and important resource – its care team members – to the patients who most need their help. Doing so will also conserve the protective equipment vital to providing care in a way that safeguards caregivers as well as the larger community. Cancelling elective procedures will also help keep beds available in the event of a surge in demand related to COVD-19.
And importantly, this step will reduce community spread of the coronavirus by bringing only the patients who need to be seen to MaineHealth facilities, thus reducing person-to-person contact in the community.
To help stop the spread of infection, the federal Centers for Disease Control recommends community members continue to practice good hand hygiene, stay home when they’re sick and cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and discard it.
Patients seeking additional information about how MaineHealth is responding to the outbreak of COVID-19 can find it here: https://mainehealth.org/healthy-communities/coronavirus. Those seeking the most up-to-date information on the spread of the virus should visit the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html