Orthopedic Surgeon: We’re Not Supposed to Talk About COVID-19 Cases, Supply Shortages

Shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) at hospitals and healthcare centers have become a cause for concern amid the COVID-19 breakout. And according to one orthopedic surgeon, his institution is also implementing a shortage on speaking about the issues plaguing his place of work.

The orthopedic surgeon spoke with MDedge on the condition of anonymity.

“It’s very clear; no one is allowed to speak for the institution or of the institution,” the surgeon shared. “We get a daily warning about being very prudent about posts on personal accounts. They’ve talked about this with respect to various issues: case numbers, case severity, testing availability, [and] PPEs.”

The surgeon, who is employed “in a COVID-19 hot spot in the Northeast,” per MDedge, said that everyone receives one mask that they must reuse unless they come in contact with someone who is known to have COVID-19.

“However, with the numbers in our region rapidly increasing, you can’t assume that people don’t have it or that you don’t have particles on your mask, even if you’re not in a known quarantine zone within the institution,” he explained.

Are Orthopedic Surgeries Essential?

Orthopedic surgery may not come to mind when considering essential surgeries. However, in a recent interview, Alan Hilibrand, MD, vice chairman for academic affairs and faculty development for the department of orthopedic surgery and co-director of spine surgery at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Philadelphia, explained how his institution is handling the COVID-19 breakout and explained the significance of some essential orthopedic surgeries.

Speaking with Becker’s Spine Review, Dr. Hilibrand reiterated that his hospital is currently only performing essential procedures. Certain policies the hospital has implemented—including changing office hours to telehealth and telemedicine visits—may remain part of the institute’s normal routine even when the COVID-19 pandemic is over: “Anyone who can work from home works from home and staff who need to be here are only in to the extent they need to be.”

“While people think about orthopedic surgery as elective surgeries like having a hip or knee replaced or an [anterior cruciate ligament] reconstructed, there’s a lot of essential surgery that orthopedic surgeons do, like fixing tendon ruptures and fractures, taking care of infections and patients who have significant neurologic deficits. These services need to continue to be provided. We can’t just all go home and not provide services to patients who need them,” he said. “The challenge of this pandemic is for us to be able to do all those things safely and not put undue stress on a healthcare system that may face substantial burdens to provide other types of care in the next month.”