Officials at both Billings hospitals said Monday elective surgeries will start again but not without precautions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late March, Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare postponed all elective procedures to ensure safety during the pandemic.
At St. Vincent Healthcare, officials say that with the number of COVID-19 patients beginning to decrease, the facility will resume performing elective surgeries and procedures in a limited capacity on April 27.
Procedures at Billings Clinic will start on May 4. However, starting Tuesday, April 28, patients will be tested from their cars at the center, located at North Broadway and Eighth Avenue near SameDay Care.
Their test samples will be then sent to Mayo Clinic for analysis and take about four to six days for results, according to officials.
Dr. John Pender with Billings Clinic says close to a thousand elective surgeries have been backlogged at the hospital due to the pandemic.
“We are really working every day of the week with teams meeting to come up with how we are going to address this backlog,” said Pender. “How do we get to these patients and catch up, but we don’t want to go too fast and then create some type of surge with COVID.”
He says they are carefully phasing in the surgeries where a patient must be put under anesthesia or need to be intubated.
Patients at Billings Clinic will also then need to self-quarantine in between the time they took the test and have their surgery.
Patients with procedures in the operating room at St. Vincent are also required to have a COVID-19 test, but providers may order a test at their discretion for non-intubated procedures, according to officials.