Local surgeons have backlogs of surgeries that have been suspended for weeks, said Larry Hand, the hospital’s Director of Perioperative Services.Ten elective surgeries will be allowed per day, Hand explained, and every patient must be tested for COVID-19 within five days of their surgery.

After amassing Personal Protective Equipment over the past six weeks and smoothing its COVID-19 response plan, Mercy Medical Center Mt. Shasta is poised to begin elective surgeries beginning May 11.

Local surgeons have backlogs of surgeries that have been suspended for weeks, said Larry Hand, the hospital’s Director of Perioperative Services.

Ten elective surgeries will be allowed per day, Hand explained, and every patient must be tested for COVID-19 within five days of their surgery. Between the time they’re tested and when they report to Mercy for their procedure, patients must self-quarantine, Hand said.

Visitors won’t be allowed, Hand added, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure for patients, visitors and hospital staff.

“Some people might decide not to have their surgeries right now because they can’t have visitors,” Hand said. But those who are in pain or whose lives have been impacted on a daily basis will be happy to have their medical issues addressed.

Elective surgeries include joint replacements, spine surgeries, post-operative pain blocks, and more, Hand said.

Surgeons at Mercy include three eye surgeons, two general surgeons, three orthopedic surgeons, one OBGYN and three family doctors that perform c-sections.

With just five confirmed COVID-19 cases Siskiyou-wide, Mercy Mt. Shasta hasn’t seen the influx of COVID-19 cases that were originally expected, said Hand.

“We attribute that to the public’s willingness to abide by the requests of the health department: hand washing and social distancing,” Hand said.

And although some of the more drastic parts of the hospital’s COVID-19 response haven’t been necessary to instate, Mercy Medical Center spokeswoman Allison Hendrickson noted that all aspects of the plan are ready to go if there is a spike in coronavirus cases. There is a plan in place to isolate COVID-19 patients from the rest of the hospital and “an adequate number” of ventilators if they are necessary.

Hand explained that pre-surgical COVID-19 testing will take place at Mercy’s cancer center, which located in front of the emergency room.

Once patients arrive for their surgical procedures, they’ll be screened again. Their temperatures will be taken and everyone inside the hospital is required to wear a mask, Hand said.

Throughout the pandemic, business has continued as usual in the hospital for non-elective surgeries, Hand noted, for emergent cases like biopsies, colonoscopies or cholecystectomies (gall bladder removals).

The hospital performs an average of 200 surgeries per month, although every day is different, Hand said.

“Some days we could do 25 or 30, and others three or four. It depends on the surgeons’ schedules,” Hand said.

Hand said his main concern has been ensuring there are enough supplies for the continuance of elective surgeries, as well as future demand. Since non-elective surgeries were suspended six weeks ago, the hospital has been able to amass “a large quantity” of personal protective equipment, such as masks and gloves.

Items such as IV tubing were getting a bit low before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the hospital was down to 360 units, Hand said. But since then they’ve been able to resupply with plenty of everything.

Hands’ responsibilities include the pre and post surgery area, the post anesthesia care unit (known by most as the recovery room), the surgery arena and the instrument processing area.

“We should be able to handle what comes our way,” he said. “We have adequate supplies.”

Hand said the hospital will reassess their policies in two weeks and make adjustments as necessary.