Nemours New NICU

Elective procedures are resuming at Delaware hospitals.

At Tuesday's bi-weekly coronavirus news conference, Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, said the decision comes as personal protective gear shortages are lessening.

While Rattay admitted, the state could use more gowns, the overall PPE picture has improved dramatically.

"It is a very appropriate time for hospitals and health care providers, across the board, to begin to resume elective medical procedures."

Those procedures were stopped, months ago, when the novel coronavirus outbreak began, causing hospitals to lose millions, collectively, each day.

"These are procedures, where if you don't do them at this point, you could increase morbidity or mortality. That includes pediatric vaccinations, which the American Academy of Pediatrics, just put out an article last week, showing that vaccinations for kids have gone down in the last few months. Additionally, newborn, early childhood care is so very important," said Dr. Rattay.

Visits to manage existing medical, mental, or behavioral health conditions or new symptoms in established patients can also resume.

More routine primary, specialty, or preventative wellness care like annual mammograms or colonoscopies may resume under a certain condition.

"If our health care providers and facilities have enough PPE in-stock for two weeks or more...they are fine to go ahead," she said. "But again, we really emphasize that it's important, certainly, that appropriate PPE be used by staff and as appropriate patients...they must have an adequate supply before they take these steps forward."

Social distancing must also be happening at hospitals and doctor's offices, and all patients and staff must be screened for illness before procedures or wellness visits occur. Rattay added environmental cleaning procedures--in line with Centers for Disease Control guidelines, must also be in place.

Telehealth, however, is still strongly encouraged, when appropriate.

"I think if there's one, maybe, positive out of this whole situation--people are becoming more accustomed to telehealth, and we really want to encourage continuing to do telehealth visits rather than being in-person, if that is appropriate for the course of action for the patient," said Rattay.

Emergency room visits though, generally, are trending down. Rattay urged Delawareans who need medical care to seek it.

"Our hospitals are telling us that they are getting a lot of patients, who are showing up at the emergency department very sick, who are waiting too long for medical care. We know that people are afraid to go to the emergency department or to seek health care. Our health care providers, our emergency departments, our hospitals are very tuned into appropriate infection control, and we want to make sure that people don't wait to see medical care."

Governor John Carney emphasized that point.

"People need to make sure that they're seeking health care when they're very sick, and they need it," he said.