djr-2020-04-09-news-nmmc-coronavirus-twp21

Dr. Jeremy Blanchard, chief medical officer of North Mississippi Health Services, has led the planning.

TUPELO • In response to a loosening of some restrictions imposed by state government, North Mississippi Health Services announced that it will resume elective surgeries beginning today.

Facilities in Tupelo will be the first to start conducting these procedures again, including North Mississippi Medical Center, North Mississippi Surgery Center and Women’s Hospital.

The health system’s facilities in Amory, West Point and Hamilton will soon follow.

Revenue declines have hit hospitals hard, including NMHS, one of the largest rural healthcare providers in the country. NMHS President and CEO Shane Spees linked financial losses to a decline in the number of total patients, triggered by efforts and mandates to preserve resources needed to treat COVID-19 patients.

“We’ve never seen this low level of patient volume in our system since I’ve been here and for many years beforehand,” Spees told the Daily Journal earlier this month.

Elective medical operations – including orthopedic surgeries, dental work, and ear, nose and throat procedures – typically provide much of the revenue needed to subsidize more expensive types of healthcare, including uncompensated emergency room visits.

Like many other hospitals across the country, NMHS has furloughed some employees as part of a broader strategy to cut costs amid financial strain imposed by the COVID-19 response.

With elective procedures now set to resume, Spees said safety will remain paramount.

“We will keep our additional safety measures in place as long as needed to reassure the public that it is safe to access care at NMHS,” Spees said in a written statement. “Our mission is to improve the health of the people of our region. We’re ready to resume services that fit the newest guidelines set forth by the state.”

Spees has also voiced concern that patients will avoid medical care in a bid to avoid COVID-19, but may in the process defer routine or elective procedures until they become more dangerous.

To ensure the safety of patients and health workers, screening procedures, like temperature testing and masking requirements will remain imposed. All patients and visitors entering a NMHS facility are encouraged to wear their own mask, but will be provided one upon entry if they do not have one.

Social distancing practices will also be observed at NMHS facilities.

In a statement, NMHS announced that surgical offices will contact patients to reschedule appointments that may have been postponed in recent weeks. Patients may also contact their healthcare provider on their own to schedule any appointments related to elective care.

An executive order by Gov. Tate Reeves issued guidelines as to what procedures healthcare systems may now resume, following a previous order issuing certain limitations.

caleb.bedillion@journalinc.com

Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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